Vaping, smoking and drugs
Helpful information on the advertising rules for cigarettes, e-cigarettes and drugs, and examples of previous Advertising Standards Authority rulings in these areas.
Sometimes, our rules specifically refer to legislation and in others they mirror the law. One of these instances includes the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco, and e-cigarettes and vaping. We also take a strict line on the reference to drugs in advertising and generally speaking these types of references in ads are unlikely to be acceptable.
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.
While the promotion of products associated with traditional smoking are in the most-part banned, some forms of advertising for e-cigarettes and vaping are permitted.
The Tobacco Products Directive that came into effect in the UK in 2016 affects how these products can be advertised. Ads for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes not licensed as medicines are prohibited on on-demand television, in newspapers and magazines, on the internet, in emails and in text messages. Marketers’ own websites may present factual information about products but may not be used to promote or advertise them. However, the guidance 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.
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.
Ads for illegal substances are not prohibited.