Vape ads on social media ‘need to stop’ as regulator announces crackdown | UK News

Vape ads across social media platforms “need to stop” and advertisers pleading ignorance is not an excuse, the advertising regulator has warned.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) – which regulates non-broadcast adverts – launched a crackdown on e-cigarette advertisers, warning the law prohibits them from marketing vapes containing nicotine that are not licensed as medicines on most social media.

It is currently illegal for retailers to sell disposable vapes to under-18s and the devices can not be displayed across almost all media or targeted at children.

Therefore, 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.

Vape ads will be permitted online in limited spaces like company websites, provided they do not target or appeal to children. They can only contain factual claims about the products.

CAP said it had sent enforcement notices to vape manufacturers and retailers with clear rules and underlining that ignorance was not an excuse, adding it would not hesitate “to apply sanctions” against those “unwilling or unable to comply”.

Advertisers have until 28 March to fall in line with the rules.

After this, CAP said it would carry out enhanced monitoring and would take action if it found ads that were breaking the rules.

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

Using AI-assisted monitoring, CAP found that the companies promoting vapes or incentivising others to do so through social media were “typically small traders” who were “most likely in ignorance” of the rules and the law.

CAP secretary Shahriar Coupal said: “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.”

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The crackdown comes ahead of a spring budget in which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is considering a “vaping products levy” which would be paid on imports and by manufacturers of vapes to make the habit unaffordable for children.

Rishi Sunak announced plans to ban disposable vapes amid concerns about their growing use among children, especially following reports of nicotine dependency in school.

The Scottish and Welsh governments will also ban single-use vapes, which is set to be introduced by the end of 2025.