February 15, 2023
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against vape retailer VPZ for implying ‘medicinal claims for smoking cessation’ in an advertisement in its website.
The complaint has been filed against the VPZ Vape Clinic promotion in August last year, which offered a money-back guarantee as part of a four-week smoke-free journey with cigarette alternatives.
In their response to the ASA, VPZ confirmed that their products were not authorised by the MHRA for smoking cessation. The company said the ad described the ‘vape clinic’ service offered by their retail stores, and as they sold a range of cigarette alternatives as part of the service, the company added that it was necessary to provide customers with relevant factual and product-focused information to make an informed purchase.
They further asserted that it was necessary to include smoking cessation claims in order to fully inform those who were looking to use vapes as a means of quitting smoking.
They also contested the allegation of medicinal claims. Regarding the claim “make the switch today with the VPZ Vape Clinic”, the company said that their intention was to inform adult smokers that vaping was an alternative to smoking tobacco.
VPZ added that the advertised money back guarantee reflected their belief in smokers being able to successfully quit smoking tobacco via vaping, adding that the business commitment demonstrated their confidence in vaping as a means of stopping smoking.
However, the ASA contended that the claims that e-cigarettes were capable of helping users to quit smoking cigarettes or reduce the amount that they smoked can be considered a medicinal claim.
As the CAP Code states that marketing communications must not contain medicinal claims unless the product is authorised for those purposes by the MHRA, the regulator ruled that the ad breached the Code.
“We acknowledged that the marketing of a vape clinic or claims stating that individuals could switch to vaping were not medicinal claims in themselves. Nevertheless, because the overall impression of the ad emphasised that vaping was a means to quit smoking, rather than presenting it as an alternative to tobacco products, we considered that the claims would also be interpreted as smoking cessation claims by consumers,” the agency said.
In its ruling the ASA recognised that several public health bodies had made favourable statements about the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes. But medicinal claims in marketing communications for e-cigarettes remain prohibited in the absence of a relevant MHRA licence, it noted.
VPZ was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form and not to make smoking cessation claims about their e-cigarette products in the absence of a relevant MHRA licence.