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Four TikTok vape ads banned in social media crackdown

Four vape ads that appeared on TikTok have been banned as part of the regulator’s efforts to make it “crystal clear” they must stop immediately.

Videos promoting The Disposable Vape Store, Innofly HK, Vapes Bars and Zovoo all appeared on the platform despite rules prohibiting ads for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes that are not licensed as medicines in various media, including online and, crucially, on social media.

A TikTok post from the account @tdvsbackup for The Disposable Vape Store, seen on May 23, featured a man standing in front of shelves of electronic cigarettes saying: “I just wanted to tell you about these. These are new SKE Amare Crystal. Looking really good. I thought I’d get on and tell you now. They have been on the side for a few hours and some of the flavours are selling out … so I thought I’d let you guys know.”

The Disposable Vape Store said it had seen other vape shops advertising on TikTok and thought it was acceptable.

It told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) it will not advertise e-cigarettes on TikTok again.

A TikTok post from the account @vanillaspit, posted on March 24, featured the influencer rapping about Innofly HK’s Waka vapes, saying: “Got an email from a brand the other day. ‘Really wanna work with you, what do you say?’ ‘What are you paying and what have you got? If your product is decent, I’ll give it a shot.’”

She went on: “I’m like ‘I don’t vape but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll disappear in big clouds, acting all hot.”

Innofly HK said it is taking “all necessary steps” to ensure its marketing practices adhere to ASA guidelines, including not using TikTok as a marketing tool.

@vanillaspit told the ASA she was contacted by a company which offered to send her vapes and said she could make a post if she wanted to.

TikToks for Vapes Bars showed various influencers giving the devices away to passers-by who answered questions correctly.

Vapes Bars said it had contacted the influencers involved and asked them to take down the videos, telling the ASA it will “actively monitor the situation in future to ensure that the content was removed from social media platforms”.

A TikTok post from Izzi Alice Mitchell’s account, @izzialicexo, seen on May 18, featured an electronic cigarette and the text: “Zozoo (sic) drag bar 700 puffs. Grape flavour. Long last flavour. Smooth puff. 10/10.”

Zovoo did not respond to the ASA’s inquiries.

TikTok said the videos violated its community guidelines, which ban the facilitation of trade of tobacco products, including vapes or e-cigarettes.

The ASA said its rulings are part of its response to concerns about vaping ads appearing on social media, saying: “We’ve made it clear that one vaping ad on these channels is one too many and have made it a priority to stamp it out.”

To date, it has reported around 300 posts, approximately 80% of which predated an enforcement notice at the end of June to TikTok for removal.

The notice read: “We’re aware that some brands are placing – or incentivising third parties to place – content on TikTok relating to vaping products and their components. We’ve put brands on notice that, if we monitor ongoing problems, we’ll be taking targeted enforcement action.

“We know people are concerned about young people vaping and, by extension, ads for vaping products appearing on social media where they shouldn’t and being likely to appeal to or be targeted at under-18s.

“That’s why we’re taking action, banning ads that break the rules and ensuring they’re quickly removed.

“This Enforcement Notice makes crystal clear to advertisers and brands the rules that are in place and that if they are using TikTok as a platform to advertise vaping they must stop immediately.

“This is a high-priority issue for us, and we are considering what further action to take in the near future.”

A TikTok spokesman said: “Our community guidelines make clear that TikTok strictly prohibits content promoting the trade of vaping products, e-cigarettes or tobacco products.

“We continue to work with the ASA to ensure advertisers and creators comply with the CAP Code as well as our rules.”