British American Tobacco is under investigation by the advertising watchdog for allegedly promoting vaping to children on social media, it has emerged.
The Advertising Standards Authority has confirmed it is looking into seven Instagram posts relating the tobacco giant’s e-cigarette brand Vype.
The action comes after complaints from campaign groups Action on Smoking and Health, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products.
It is understood that the complaints centre around ASA rules about whether such adverts are likely to appeal to under 18-year-olds, who are prohibited from using e-cigarettes.
Responding to the investigation, Will Hill, BAT’s head of legal and external affairs for the UK and Ireland, said: “As part of our efforts to make adult smokers aware of the new potentially lower risk nicotine products available to them, we need to communicate via the channels that they are using – which clearly includes the online environment.”
He said that the company has “strict controls” in place to ensure that its social media output is “appropriate, in line with current regulation and target adult smokers and vapers”.
BAT said its response to the ASA will include “independent data that we believe proves we take all reasonable measures to ensure our communications are targeted at adult smokers and vapers”.
The news comes days after the ASA confirmed it was looking to a series of other sponsored vape posts on Instagram, unrelated to the BAT case, following an investigation by the Telegraph.
Last month the paper found that some vape shops and businesses appeared to be using young ‘influencers’ with large Instagram followings to run promotional posts for their e-cigarettes and products. UK rules state ads for nicotine products cannot feature under 25-year-olds.
Concern has been growing about the number of young people trying vaping with Public Health England reporting earlier this year that the number of children and teenagers who had used e-cigarettes has doubled in five years.
Its study found around one in six children aged between 11 and 18 has tried e-cigarettes, with many saying they liked the flavours.