Four e-cigarette makers have had their advertisements banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading consumers.
The first ever e-cigarette TV ad to be banned by the ASA was for E-Lites, produced by Zandera. Three people complained that the ad, which featured a dancing baby, would be of particular interest to children – in breach of the ASA’s code, which says that ads of interest to children must not refer to smoking. Three further complainants questioned whether the ad was misleading because it omitted the fact the product contained nicotine. The ASA upheld both complaints and banned the ad from being show again.
“We recognised that e-cigarettes were still a relatively new product in the UK and considered that it was important that such ads made the nature of the product being advertised clear,” the ASA said in its ruling. “Whether or not it contained nicotine was material information that needed to be included in the ads in order to avoid the likelihood of misleading consumers.”
In a similar case, the ASA banned a TV advert for nicotine-free 5 Colors e-cigarettes because its depiction of young adults jumping in the air while fruits exploded around them was misleading and did not make it clear what the product was. “We told 5 Colors to ensure their future advertising clearly identified that their product was an e-cigarette, that it did not contain nicotine, and that it was not available to those under the age of 18,” the ASA said.
A TV advert for Sky Cigs was also banned because it did not make clear the nature of the product or that it did not contain nicotine, while a fourth e-cigarette advert, for nicotine-containing product Ten Motives, was likewise banned for not making it clear what it was.
In defending their adverts to the ASA, all four companies said their adverts did not specify the nature of their products or refer to them as ‘e-cigarettes’ because this would have put them in breach of BCAP Code rule 10.4. This rule states that products that share a “name, emblem or feature” with a tobacco product can only be advertised if the ad does not make any reference to tobacco or smoking.
However, the ASA said that the Code did not prevent an ad containing verbal or text references to an ‘e-cig’, ‘e-cigarette’, or ‘vaporiser’; or information indicating that the product contained nicotine.
An ASA spokesman told The Grocer that advertising for e-cigarette makers was “complex and challenging” but that this set of rulings should provide greater clarity.
“This was the first time e-cigarettes adverts had appeared on TV and it made sense for us to publish these rulings at the same time. It’s about setting a benchmark for the sector,” he said.