Four TikTok vape ads banned as pressure ramps up on e-cigs brands

Amid mounting pressure on the government to tackle the widespread use of disposable vapes, widely considered to be marketed at children, the ASA has announced a string of ad bans.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned four ads for vapes that appeared on the social platform TikTok.

According to the watchdog’s rules when it comes to vaping advertising, all ads for e-cigarettes containing nicotine that aren’t licensed as medicines are prohibited from being advertised across social media.

The rulings against The Disposable Vape Store, Innofly HK Ltd, Vapes-Bars Ltd and ZOVOO (Shenzhen) Technology Co Ltd come as part of current work being undertaken by the self regulatory body to crack down on vaping ads appearing on social media. The ASA says it has made it clear “that one vaping ad on these channels is one too many”, calling it a “priority” to stamp out this activity. These ads all appeared between March and May this year.

As part of the ad ban, the ASA has issued an enforcement notice to vaping brands instructing them to stop all TikTok advertising, and it has also reported around 300 posts to TikTok for removal.

Pressure mounts on vape brands as Labour calls for ban on advertising e-cigs to childrenThe ASA is also stepping up its scrutiny of vaping advertising on platforms popular with teenagers, it says in a statement on the ad bans, in light of activity from vaping brands it has identified. The watchdog says it has identified affiliate marketing activity and brand ambassador programmes by and for brands, in which creators on the app are paid to advertise the products.

In addition, the ASA has set up a “priority” roundtable discussion with social media platforms TikTok, Meta, YouTube and X (formally Twitter) to present the findings of its online monitoring and the steps it is taking to tackle the issue. It’s not yet known when.

The news comes amid rumours the government is set to imminently announce a ban on single-use vapes in the UK. The ban could come as soon as next week, according to The Guardian, as the government has concluded the products are mainly targeted at under-18s.

It is understood the government will not be introducing a wholesale ban on all vaping products without a prescription as using the products is viewed as a positive alternative for adults looking to quit smoking.

We already have very robust restrictions on advertising, the problem is that they’re not being enforced.

John Dunne, UK Vaping Industry Association

Just last week, the Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years, Helen Hayes, proposed a new bill to help protect young people from vaping-related marketing. Hayes suggested the marketing of vapes, which feature bright coloured packaging, cartoon characters and products named after sweets such as Skittles, is harmful to children.

If the proposed bill passes into law, it will make the advertising restrictions statutory, in line the restrictions on advertising to children introduced for cigarettes in the 90s, rather than self-regulatory, as is the current case under the ASA.

“We already have very robust restrictions on advertising, the problem is that they’re not being enforced,” the director general of the UK’s Vaping Industry Association, John Dunne, told Marketing Week, as he pointed towards an “awful lot of grey area” when it comes to how harmful marketing practice is addressed.