A paid-for online display ad for Relx, an e-cigarette company, seen on the Daily Motion’s website on 11 April 2023, featured an image of four different e-cigarettes. The ad contained overlaying text which stated “£8.99 … £13.98 [cross through “£13.98”]”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad complied with the rules on e-cigarette advertising, because it promoted unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components in a paid-for ad seen on the Daily Motion website.
Relx (UK) Ltd said they were a responsible business, committed to preventing young people accessing e-cigarettes. This was evidenced by their memberships of relevant committees in industry trade associations such as the Youth Access Prevention Committee of the UK Vaping Industry Association.
Their advertising policy was to raise awareness of better alternatives to normal cigarettes among a targeted audience of adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. The ad was delivered by an agency using programmatic software to identify such audiences, while ensuring that non-intended audiences were not targeted. They did not promote nicotine-containing products to non-smokers or former smokers.
Relx instructed their agency to remove the ad and ensure that any existing and upcoming ads complied with the Code.
CAP Code rule 22.12 reflected a legislative ban contained in the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) on the advertising of unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in certain media. The rule stated that, except for media targeted exclusively to the trade, marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components which were not licensed as medicines were not permitted in newspapers, magazines and periodicals; or in online media and some other forms of electronic media. It further stated that factual claims about products were permitted on marketers’ own websites and, in certain circumstances, in other non-paid-for space online under the marketer’s control.
We acknowledged Relx’s comments regarding their memberships and advertising policy. However, the paid-for ad on the Daily Motion website was not targeted exclusively to the trade and prominently featured four nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, which were not licensed as medicines. The ad featured the Relx logo and an image of e-cigarettes and was published in online media which we considered was promotional.
We welcomed Relx’s assurance that the ad had been removed and that existing and upcoming advertising would abide by the Code. However, since the ad had the direct or indirect effect of promoting e-cigarettes which were not licensed as medicines in non-permitted media, we concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 22 .12 (Electronic cigarettes).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Relx (UK) Ltd to ensure that marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components that were not licensed medicines should not be made from the Daily Motion website or in other non-permitted media.