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Electronic Cigarettes: Disinformation

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 179116, tabled on 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to tackle online misinformation on the vaping industry.

Answered on

19 April 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care and PHE meet with the Independent British Vape Trade Association to discuss industry concerns and wider regulatory matters, including misinformation.

E-cigarettes in the UK are tightly regulated by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) and the Nicotine Inhaling Products (Age of Sale and Proxy Purchasing) Regulations 2015 (NIP). These regulations aim to reduce the risk of harm to children; to protect against any risk of renormalisation of tobacco use; and to provide assurance on relative safety for users. The regulations include restrictions on mainstream TV and radio advertising; prevent sale to under 18s; and limit both tank sizes and nicotine content.

DCMS works closely with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who facilitate the self-regulation of the UK advertising sector through the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) and The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) - which applies to online advertising. The ASA has a clear framework for advertisers to follow in relation to what is and is not allowed when making health claims about vapes or e-cigarettes.

The Better Health national marketing campaign on smoking cessation, delivered by Public Health England, has been effective at helping challenge misinformation surrounding e-cigarettes. The campaign is supported by public health professionals at a local level, helping smokers switch to e-cigarette products.

The key consideration for advertisers is whether their marketing communications do anything further than provide basic, factual information about the products. Any content that appears to make the product seem more attractive is likely to be regarded as promotional and therefore likely to be ruled against by the ASA and removed.

More information about the ASA’s approach can be viewed here: https://www.asa.org.uk/asset/97E623E4-3A64-4215-81A5C4BD6D82D1E0.A1727AC1-C340-4B08