Regulator announces crackdown on vape ads across social media

Vape ads across social media “need to stop” and ignorance on the part of advertisers is not an excuse, the regulator has warned.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap) has launched a crackdown on vape advertisers, warning the law prohibits them from marketing e-cigarettes containing nicotine that are not licensed as medicines on most social media.

Retailers are prohibited from selling e-cigarettes or vapes to under-18s and the devices can therefore not be advertised across almost all media, or be targeted at children.

This means brands or retailers 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.

Cap said it had sent an enforcement notice to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers, making the rules clear and emphasising that ignorance is not an excuse, adding: “We won’t hesitate to apply sanctions against advertisers who are either unwilling or unable to comply.”

Advertisers have until March 28 to make sure their ads are compliant. Following this, Cap said it will be carrying out enhanced monitoring and would take action if it found ads that were breaking the rules.

Last year, Cap issued an enforcement notice to e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers requiring them to stop paid promotions on TikTok.

Cap secretary Shahriar Coupal said: “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 incentivising others to do so, most likely in ignorance of our rules and the law.

“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.”