One point was investigated and resolved informally with the advertiser’s agreement to make changes. Riot Labs Ltd agreed to remove medicinal claims for smoking cessation for an unlicensed product from both pages of the website.
Two pages on the website www.rioteliquid.com/ for Riot Eliquid, a vaping retailer, seen on 21st October 2022.
The first page had the headline, “MEET THE RIOT REHAB BUS” and above that featured an image of a double decker bus. The bus had text that said, “QUIT SMOKING THE R.I.O.T WAY! RIOT REHAB.” The page also featured an image of a man putting his thumb up. Text around the man stated, “RIOT. QUIT SMOKING THE R.I.O.T WAY. RIP UP THE RULE BOOK! IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS. ONLY SMOKE IF YOU NEED TO. THE REST IS EASY. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT RIOTELIQUID.COM/4STEPS”.
The second page had the headline, “QUIT SMOKING THE R.I.O.T WAY”. Text below that said, “Forget everything you’ve ever heard about quitting smoking! By following these 4 simple R.I.O.T steps we guarantee you can kick the habit, don’t believe us try it for yourself! RIP UP THE RULE BOOK!.... IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS….. ONLY SMOKE IF YOU NEED TO. Cut your cigarette intake and use your Riot Bar whenever you aren’t able to smoke. Without realising, your cigarette intake will be next to nothing, or even better; non-existent. THE REST IS EASY”.
The ASA challenged whether the claim, “ONLY SMOKE IF YOU NEED TO” in the ad undermined the message that quitting tobacco was the best option for health.
Riot Labs Ltd said they had deleted the highlighted wording from the first page but not the second page. They explained their method of giving up smoking recognised that for some people it was not right to suddenly quit smoking. They explained there was a lot of evidence to support that approach.
They provided an opinion piece which considered the main issues related to smoking reduction and cessation, and evaluated them based on the available evidence. It evaluated whether smoking reduction could deter cessation, gave a summary of the methods available to reduce smoking and discussed whether the evidence showed that reduction could decrease harm from smoking even if people did not manage to stop smoking.
They supplied a meta-analysis of 51 studies of 22,000 people who smoked. Each study included one group who had been asked to cut down on smoking and then quit altogether. They were then compared to a second group who were asked to stop completely or a group who were asked to stop with no treatment or a group who were asked to cut down on smoking in a different way.
They said, “ONLY SMOKE IF YOU NEED TO” was part of the strategy they advocated which was, “Switching the R.I.O.T way” and even in that section of the website (page two) they made it clear that quitting altogether was the best outcome, by saying, “Without realising, your cigarette intake will be next to nothing, or even better; non-existent”.
We acknowledged that Riot Labs had agreed to remove the disputed wording from the first page.
The CAP Code stated e-cigarettes may be presented as an alternative to tobacco but marketers must do nothing to undermine the message that quitting tobacco use was the best option for health.
Both pages stated, “ONLY SMOKE IF YOU NEED TO”. The implication therefore was that there were times you may need cigarettes and that it was acceptable to smoke if it was absolutely necessary. While the second page did state that the best outcome for a person’s cigarette intake was for it to be “non-existent”, that statement was undermined by the repeated message in the ads that using cigarettes was acceptable when it was really needed. Because that contradicted the message that quitting tobacco completely was the best choice for a person’s health, the ads were not compliant with the Code rules on e-cigarettes.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 22.5 (Electronic Cigarettes).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Riot Labs Ltd they should not make any claims that undermined the message that quitting tobacco use is the best option for health.