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A Closer Look at the Ads

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two TikTok ads created by influencers for promoting e-cigarettes, in violation of rules that prohibit e-cigarette advertising on social media platforms. The first post, shared by @Panaxhe_, featured a young man selecting a blueberry-flavored Elf Bar from a fridge full of brightly-colored devices for breakfast, before returning later for a kiwi passionfruit-flavored vape for lunch. The second ad starred former Gogglebox star George Baggs, holding up an HQD Wave disposable electronic cigarette still in its packaging, while on-screen text stated, “Matching my outfit with my new HQD v@pe.”

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The Investigation that Led to the Ban

The ASA launched an investigation to determine whether the posts violated advertising rules by promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes on TikTok, and featuring a person under the age of 25 (George Baggs). In the UK, strict regulations on promoting vaping products aim to prevent irresponsible marketing and ads targeted at young people. Promotions for Elf Bar and HQD products on TikTok, which has an age rating of 13+, appear to openly flout these regulations.

Responses from the Companies

Elf Bar, which trades as Green Fun Alliance, claimed that they had asked the content creator and TikTok to remove the post, and promised to improve their internal review and monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements for online content. HQD Tech, on the other hand, maintained that Mr. Baggs was not encouraging viewers to try the product. Off Limits Entertainment, acting on behalf of Mr. Baggs, contacted HQD Tech and pledged that he would not promote any vape campaigns on his social media channels in the future.

The Ruling on the Ads

The ASA ruled that the Elf Bar ad must not appear again, stating: “We told Green Fun Alliance that marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components which were not licensed as medicines should not be made from a public TikTok account.” The ASA also found the HQD Tech ad in violation, stating: “Notwithstanding that we did not consider the ad was permitted on TikTok – anyone shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25. George Baggs, a public figure, known from the television programme Gogglebox, was shown smoking an e-cigarette in the video, and we understood that he was aged 19 at the time the ad was posted. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.” TikTok confirmed that the two posts may have appeared on an algorithmically-driven “For You” feed, which means that users who did not follow George Baggs or @Panaxhe_ might have seen them.

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Hi I'm Oliver Smith, I would say that I take great pride in my work as a journalist and strive to produce high-quality, impactful stories that make a difference. With more than eight years of experience under my belt, I am passionate about uncovering the truth and shining a light on issues that matter.


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