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Vaping firms told to stop using public Instagram for promotion

December 18, 2019


The Advertising Standards Authority has told four vaping brands, including British American Tobacco’s (BAT) Vype, to avoid using public Instagram accounts for promotional posts.

The advertising authority, in separate rulings, found BAT and e-cigarette retailers Attitude Vapes, Mylo Vape and JuiceNPower in violation of a legislative ban on the advertising of unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in online media.

Regulations allow a manufacturer to provide factual product information on its own websites, but ASA said a social media page or account “might be considered to be analogous to a website and able to make factual claims if it could only be found by those actively seeking it.”

As the posts from a public Instagram account can be distributed beyond those users who had signed up to follow the account, the authority said material from such an account was not analogous to a retailer’s own website.

ASA asked BAT and other firms to avoid using public Instagram accounts for promoting e-cigarettes in future “unless they had taken steps to ensure they would only be distributed to those following their account and would not be seen by other users.”

ASA however rejected a complaint that the certain posts on Vype’s Instagram page were likely to appeal particularly to people aged under 18.

While it upheld another complaint alleging that a post showed a model aged below 25, the authority acknowledged BAT’s effort to verify the model’s age and welcomed its decision to remove the post once they became aware of the issue.

Responding to the ruling, Simon Cleverly, group head of corporate affairs at BAT, said the company will abide by the ASA’s decision by removing the relevant posts and amending Instagram account settings.

Cleverly, however, added that social media is an important channel to drive awareness amongst adult consumers of the products that are potentially reduced risk alternatives to cigarettes.

“Given that, in its response, the ASA dismissed the suggestion that we targeted anyone other than adult consumers with our communications about our vaping products, we believe the ASA’s view that Instagram may remain a channel that can be used to communicate with adult consumers interested in the category is appropriate,” he said.

“We felt very strongly about the accusation that we targeted under 18s, and we are pleased that in its ruling, the ASA acknowledged the significant effort we undertake to ensure our content is targeted at adult consumers only.”