Earlier in the year, a group of 125 anti-smoking groups called for social media platforms to do more to stop influencers marketing tobacco products and e-cigarettes online.
Many companies are using these accounts to avoid existing smoking bans. However, platforms are yet to change their policies to avoid this practice. As part of a recent crackdown, four e-cigarette manufacturers have now been banned from advertising on Instagram.
Among them is British American Tobacco (BAT), who have recently posted adverts alongside posts with well known celebrities, including Lily Allen, Rami Malek and other famous figures – although the company claims it was “providing information” only, and these weren’t adverts.
The ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority followed complaints earlier in the year that BAT and other sellers were breaking advertising rules. The advertising on e-cigarettes is banned in the UK, but companies can provide information that’s not promotional.
BAT currently engages in social media campaigns on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. to show information on e-cigarettes to consumers. But, the advertising watchdog said the posts “clearly went beyond” providing information and were promoting the products.
Now, all adverts for BAT, Ama Vape Lab, Attitude Vapes and Mylo Vapes have been banned. The ruling has been welcomed by campaigners, who describe it as a “major step forward” in stopping addictive nicotine products from being marketed online.
Simon Cleverly, group head of corporate affairs at BAT, said: “In relation to the complaint that we were promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components on Instagram, while we believed that the content included in the complaint was compliant with the ASA’s CAP Code, we will abide by the ASA’s decision and recommendation to remove the relevant posts and amend our Instagram account settings.”
A spokesperson for Instagram’s owner, Facebook, said: “We have never allowed adverts that promote the sale or use of tobacco or electronic cigarettes – regardless of country. Earlier this year we also updated our policy to restrict organic content that depicts the sale or purchase of tobacco products to over 18s.”