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Vape industry advertorial banned for promoting unlicensed devices in newspaper

An advertorial from a British vape industry body has been banned for promoting unlicensed e-cigarettes in a newspaper.

The ad from the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), seen in the East Lothian Courier on October 26, featured the headline: “Let’s clear the smoke of confusion: Vaping saves smokers’ lives.”

The article went on: “A constant stream of negative headlines is eroding the public’s understanding of vaping’s benefits, particularly among smokers”, and: “The IBVTA is now seeking to challenge some of the misinformation we’ve seen over recent months and to educate smokers about the benefits of vaping.”

It claimed that single-use vapes, due to their “user-friendly nature”, played a crucial role in the initial transition away from tobacco, with 53% of regular smokers and 61% of recent ex-smokers using single-use devices.

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A further paragraph said vaping, particularly when using flavoured devices, was “pivotal in achieving the Scottish Government’s smoke-free ambitions”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated whether the ad breached rules by promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components in a newspaper.

The IBVTA said the ad presented factual information about vaping and presented findings from a piece of research about consumers’ views on vaping.

They said the ad was published during a time of “public misunderstanding of vaping harms, including that vaping was more harmful than smoking”.

The ASA said the ad was published in a local Scottish newspaper in response to the Scottish Government’s proposal to ban the sale of disposable vapes by 2025.

The regulator noted the ad did not refer to a specific brand of vape or vaping product, and therefore did not directly promote nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

But it said the ad’s claims around the benefits of single-use vapes had the indirect effect of promoting them.

The ad included a link to the IBVTA website, which included a “Find a vape shop” feature, which the ASA said had the further effect of indirectly promoting unlicensed e-cigarettes.

The ASA concluded: “Because the ad had the indirect effect of promoting e-cigarettes, which were not licensed as medicines in non-permitted media, we concluded that it breached the Code.”

It ruled that the ad must not appear again.

The IBVTA said: “A YouGov survey in January of this year found that less than a quarter of British adults surveyed could correctly identify that smoking is far more harmful than vaping.

“The IBVTA is therefore disappointed that adjusting the balance of misinformation in the media is not deemed legal through any paid advertorial means.”