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UK Ad Watchdog Bans BAT’s Vaping Ads On Instagram

UK Ad Watchdog Bans BAT’s Vaping Ads On Instagram
The advertising watchdog of the United Kingdom has ruled that it was preventing British American Tobacco (BAT)’s all forms of advertisement of its e-cigarettes on all of the public accounts on Instagram which would also include the accounts of some of the social media influencers that it has reportedly hired.
The company should also immediately remove all ads related to Vype on Instagram, ordered the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of the UK.
This decision of the watchdog was based on a probe initiated by it following complaints by some health groups in March about seven Instagram posts by Vype which, the complainants claimed, could be appealing for Instagram users who were below the threshold age of 18 years.
Model, who were apparently below the age of 25 years, were also used by the company for the advertisements against the law in the UK, claimed the complaints that were made by the Action on Smoking and Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products.
While supporting the complaints filed against the company alleging that the advertisements had violated online advertising laws and used models who were below the age of 25 years throughout those posts, the ASA in a statement directed the company that those ads must not appear again in the form that was complained about.
However the complaint that VAT had intentionally targeted anyone other than adults through its Instagram posts was not upheld by the regulator.
Even though all forms of advertisement of e-cigarettes online is prohibited in the UK, its regulations however permit such companies to provide some factual product information to targeted audience such as the name, content and price of the product. This is according to the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive and companies can put up such information on their own websites.
However, the view taken by the ASA is the social media accounts were not the same as a website and hence the various social media platforms could not be used by BAT to share and advertise such information with the public about e-cigarettes.
“The ASA’s ruling is a huge step forward in preventing tobacco companies from using social media to advertise to young people in the U.K. and around the world,” said Mark Hurley, director of international communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“While this is a mild negative for the BAT’s UK revenue stream from vape products in the UK, it’s immaterial to the bottom line,” Liberum analyst Nico von Stackelberg said in a note.
With the global decline of traditional cigarettes, millions of dollars are currently being invested by tobacco companies into their e-cigarette businesses.  However concerns over the safety of these devices have been raised globally after ea series of deaths and illnesses were linked to vaping and after it was revealed that teens were getting addicted to the devices.
“We will abide by the ASA’s decision and recommendation to remove the relevant posts and amend our Instagram account setting,” said Simon Cleverly, BAT’s group head of corporate affairs.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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