The increased popularity in recent years of E-cigarettes, particularly among teenagers who are not former or current smokers has not gone unnoticed. A study conducted by the University College London found that in January 2022, 15% of 18-year-old survey respondents in Great Britain used e-cigarettes. Even though the sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine to those under 18s is prohibited, many people, myself included have witnessed instances of those under 18s using e-cigarettes. Given the health problems associated with its use, the growing prevalence of e-cigarettes in day-to-day society is alarming. Young people are being swayed by the allures of the bright neon-coloured sticks and the multitude of e-cigarette flavours available from cotton candy to blue raspberry.
NEAFs, a retailer of heated cigarette sticks which are free from tobacco, odour, ash and tar, was STUBBED by the ASA for featuring images on their website homepage of various people who appeared to be under 25 years old holding and using a NEAFS device.
Neafs’ response to the complaint was that all the models used in their ads were selected to target their market which is aged between 25 – 50 years old. When they assessed how old the models were perceived to be, they took into account height, facial features (skin lines), and non-verbal body language. They believed the models had an appearance which was representative of an average of 30 years plus. Furthermore, all the models were photographed in locations associated with business, careers or in-home environments. Neafs claimed the models were not dressed in clothing commonly associated with under-25s.
The ASA applied the heat of section 22.10 of the CAP Code which states that “People shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25. People under 25 may be shown in an incidental role but must be obviously not using e-cigarettes”.
The ASA discovered that one of the models would have been 24 at the time the ad was published and so those images were in breach of the Code.
Furthermore, one of the models was casually dressed in a way that reinforced a youthful and casual appearance, this image was featured next to a testimonial which stated ““What NEAFS users are saying” and “Hi, I purchased your … pack today at Heathrow Central bus station and I can certainly say your product is soooooo great!!!”. The tone of the testimonial along with the image was considered to give the impression that the model would be seen to be under 25 and so was in breach of the Code.
This ruling serves as a reminder to carefully vet any images, models or testimonials used in advertising E-cigarettes to ensure they comply with the CAP CODE.
As promotional bodyguards, PromoVeritas reviews marketing communications for the brands we work with to ensure that they adhere to the relevant regulations and that consumers are not being misled. Please feel free to reach out if you would like any marketing communications to be reviewed!