ASA, the UK’s advertising regulator, has upheld a complaint from health charity ASH Scotland in its ruling about medicinal smoking cessation advertising claims by vaping company VPZ regarding its e-cigarette products.
The Advertising Standards Authority’s UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) – the rule book for non-broadcast advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing communications – states that marketing communications must not contain medicinal claims unless a product is authorised for those purposes by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Claims that e-cigarettes are capable of helping users to quit smoking cigarettes or reduce the amount that people smoke are considered medicinal claims, and such claims are prohibited in the absence of a relevant MHRA licence – which no e-cigarette product sold in the UK has yet received.
The advert, which breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 22.5 (Electronic cigarettes), was published on the company’s website under the headline ‘Make the switch today with the VPZ Vape Clinic’ and contained several explicit references to smoking cessation. The ASA’s ruling states that ‘the ad must not appear again in its current form.’
The ASA ruling was covered by Channel 4 covered where they interviewed Prof Emily Banks, author of the global systematic evidence review.
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of health charity, ASH Scotland, said: “We welcome ASA’s ruling which draws a clear line for profit-making vaping businesses like VPZ inappropriately using medical language about e-cigarettes in advertising sales pitches.
“Staff working for vaping companies are not qualified to provide medical advice, and these companies are not health stakeholders. Not one single e-cigarette product has been licensed by the MHRA to be used as a smoking cessation aid.
“As a health charity, we advise people in Scotland who want to leave tobacco behind to contact their local specialist Quit Your Way stop smoking services, which are available for free from the NHS.
“Quit Your Way is run by trained health professionals and offer expert, person-centred support to help individuals to make fully informed decisions about ways to quit smoking, which doesn’t need to involve using any kind of substance or commercial product.”
People who are aiming to give up smoking can call Quit Your Way Scotland’s free helpline on 0800 848484 or create a quit plan at www.quityourway.scot