The Dos and Don'ts of Offline Vaping Advertising
The restrictions on tobacco advertisement have been long understood, with only older people in our communities still able to remember cigarette brands would advertise everywhere, from TV to billboards, and ran events like giveaways and competitions to drive brand awareness and ultimately sales. The ASA states that:
“The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 prohibits press, poster and most advertising on the internet for tobacco products, outlaws the free distribution of tobacco products and coupons, and bans tobacco retailer ads targeted at the public. Displays of tobacco products and prices on an advertiser’s own website where such products are offered for sale are allowed.”
Vaping however is a far newer phenomenon, and faces its own set of restrictions first laid out by the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and subsequent Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) in 2016.
Vaping advertisements are now carefully policed in the UK by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), and Child Assault Prevention (CAP) – both of which rely on reports of non-compliance from Trading Standards, as well as from the public and those within the vaping industry.
In any case, a reported breach of the regulations will be assessed, and if indeed found to be non-compliant, the source of the advertisement will face varying degrees of reprimand.
This could range from simply amending or removing the offending material, to heavy fines and restrictions in cases where initial warnings are ignored or where severe breaches have occurred.
Variations do exist however between promotions in different public spaces. Online restrictions differ quite dramatically from offline, which can often cause confusion for those attempting to effectively promote their vaping brand. Read on as we explore the key dos and don’ts...
- Ensure the nicotine warning occupies 30% of the packaging
- Ensure the design on any labels conforms to the size restrictions
- Ensure there are no images or design elements present that appeal to children
- Ensure there are no depictions of food stuffs that might lead the consumer to believe they are present in the product
- Ensure all product information, ingredients, allergens, and associated hazard warnings are present and easily accessible to the consumer
It should be noted that in the case of shortfill or similar 0mg e-liquids that are nicotine free, many of the rules within TPD and TRPR do not apply, such as bottle size limits and the ability to be offered as a free sample in promotions.
They are still bound by many of the same advertising standards however, particularly those focussing on responsibility and protecting children, as governed by CAP.
Offline vape promotion, messaging, imagery and claims are all treated slightly differently than their online counterparts. (Which you can learn more about here)
Contrary to the above online regulations, the ASA states that “ads for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes not licensed as medicines are permitted on outdoor posters and on the sides of buses not travelling outside of the UK, on leaflets, in direct hard copy mail and in the cinema.”
Posters, leaflets, window stickers, shelf wobblers, cash mats and of course product displays to name just a few can be freely used for promotion to consumers in-store. PoS (Point of Sale) materials like these can demonstrate messages of price reduction, and can even suggest a person may have abetter chance of quitting smoking if they use a particular vaping product.
The reasoning for this stark difference to the online regs is not clearly defined and has been the subject of debate and scrutiny in equal measure. Many online only retailers see the imbalance as an unfair advantage grated to bricks and mortar retailers, leading to much bad blood and an industry culture that sees brands regularly reporting competitors to the ASA or similar authorities in hopes they will face reprimand.
In the public Eye
Provided they cannot be seen outside of the UK, vapes can be promoted on billboards, busses, taxis and more. Despite this freedom, many smaller vaping brands cannot afford this level of premium marketing, and means that the most publicly placed advertisements are for vaping products owned exclusively by big tobacco corporations with sufficiently deep pockets.
Some see this again as an unfair advantage granted to businesses that have profited for years off of addiction, and have simply switched products to promote a cleaner image, while still selling all their traditional tobacco goods.
Despite this, the laws are set and unless an independent vaping company can find the budget to support mass marketing campaigns of this scale, it remains a promotional platform reserved for only the most affluent brands.
Don’t Risk Non-Compliance
Even in the cases we have explored where more freedom to promote vaping products exists, the golden rule should always be to remain as compliant as possible. Responsibility is paramount, and the retailer’s duty of care to their customers should always trump profit.
Ultimately any breaches will be swiftly acted upon, so the risks are best left untaken except for cases where special permissions have been granted or substantial evidence is present to validate any claims made about a product.
The ASA’s final word is:
“All ads for vaping and e-cigarettes that appear in media that is permitted should still be socially responsible, not targeted at children and should not make unauthorised health and/or safety claims.”
Our regulatory and compliance team here at EDGE ensure that we are always up-to-date and working in-line with the very latest legislation, so EDGE are always fully compliant and promoted responsibly.