A magazine ad for a local e-cigarette store, Vape Station, seen in the March 2017 edition of The Journal magazine. The ad featured images of six e-cigarettes above the text "OVER 80 UK Manufactured flavours to choose from" and featured the headline claim "THE HEALTHIER OPTION TO CIGARETTE SMOKING". Smaller text stated "MATONAY UK E-LIQUIDS AND ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES". The main body of text in the ad stated "If you vape, you need Vape Station. We are the region's favourite supplier of electronic cigarettes, e-liquids and next generation vaping devices, with a huge array of high quality e-cig accessories to match. Electronic Cigarettes are simple, refreshing and SMOKE FREE!" The ad then provided the address and phone number of the store.
The complainant, who was concerned that the ad promoted e-cigarettes in a magazine, a medium which was subject to advertising restrictions for e-cigarettes, challenged whether the ad breached the Code.
Vape Station said that the image of the e-cigarettes were their own products, which could be used to consume nicotine and non-nicotine containing e-liquids. They said they believed the ad complied with the Code because the images did not specifically reference any nicotine containing e-cigarette brand under which a nicotine-containing e-cigarette was sold. They also said that they had not received any complaints about the issue and withdrew the ad immediately after receiving a complaint about it.
The Journal said that the images of e-cigarettes in the advertisement were generic images that could not be readily associated with a nicotine-containing e-cigarette brand. They said the ad did not reference a specific nicotine containing e-cigarette, e-liquid or accessory, or a brand name associated with nicotine-containing products. Therefore, they argued that the business was promoting its own existence, and was not directing readers to specific e-cigarette products. Nevertheless, they said they had ensured that e-cigarette products had not appeared in the magazine during the investigation, and they had initiated a policy to ensure in future that they did not provide advertising space to e-cigarette businesses where the ads were not compliant with the Code.
Rule 22. 12 of the CAP Code 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, "advertisements with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components which are not licensed as medicines" were not permitted in newspapers and magazines. While rule 22. 12 did not necessarily prohibit ads for e-cigarette businesses, such ads would need to do nothing that promoted, directly or indirectly, specific unlicensed nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or their components.
The ad featured an image of seven e-cigarettes, which we understood was an image of the store's own unlicensed e-cigarettes that could be used to consume nicotine-containing e-liquid. We further noted that the small text in the bottom left-hand corner of the ad stated "Matonay UK e-liquids and electronic cigarettes" which we understood was a brand of nicotine-containing product. The ad also included various health claims relating to the products advertised.
Because the ad showed products that could be used to consume nicotine-containing e-liquid, referred to a brand of nicotine-containing e-liquid and made claims about those products we concluded that the ad promoted nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and e-liquids in a magazine, and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 22. 12 (Electronic Cigarettes).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Vape Station to ensure that their ads for their stores in media covered by rule 22. 12 did not show images of, make claims about or reference the brand name of unlicensed nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or e-liquids.