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    Regulator cracks down on vape ads on social media

    Photo: iStock

    The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has launched a crackdown on ads for vapes that break our rules, issuing an Enforcement Notice to advertisers and with focused monitoring to find and ban problem ads appearing in social media.

    Last year, CAP issued an Enforcement Notice to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers requiring them to stop paid promotions on TikTok. The regulator is now expanding its efforts across other social media platforms and to their social media accounts.

    Advertisers cannot directly or indirectly market nicotine-containing e-cigarettes that aren’t licensed as medicines on most social media. This means you cannot promote them in paid-for posts, or in non-paid for posts on non-private accounts, such as on TikTok, Instagram or Facebook.

    In the few spaces where ads for vapes are allowed, such as on company websites, they must not be targeted or appeal particularly to under-18s, and can only contain factual claims about products. 

    This Enforcement Notice is being sent to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers. It makes clear the rules that are in place and emphasises that ignorance is not an excuse.

    CAP said they won’t hesitate to apply sanctions against advertisers who are either unwilling or unable to comply.

    Following this notice, advertisers have until 28 March to ensure their ads are compliant. After that, Cap will be conducting enhanced monitoring, using its Active Ad Monitoring system to find ads that may break our rules and to take action where they do.

    “The law prohibits e-cigarette ads appearing on most social media accounts, so it’s simply unacceptable for companies to advertise in these spaces. AI-assisted monitoring tells us that these companies are typically small traders promoting e-cigarettes through their social media accounts or incentivizing others to do so, most likely in ignorance of our rules and the law,” Shahriar Coupal, secretary of CAP, said.

    “Our Enforcement Notice leaves traders in no doubt about their obligations under both and makes clear that e-cigarette promotions through social media channels need to stop. For those that fail to do so, we and our enforcement partners won’t hesitate to sanction them.”

    CAP is the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK’s independent advertising regulator, and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.

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