Swift action by the ASA finds marketing of e-cigarettes using a 7-year-old not ‘socially responsible’

23 August 2017

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), has welcomed the swift response of the ASA in taking action to address a company’s marketing of e-cigarettes using a 7-year-old. It follows revelations in The Sun [1] on Monday 21st August that a North East based e-cigarette company was sponsoring the girl in a beauty pageant with advertising images being shared through social media platform Instagram.

ASH was informed by the ASA Tuesday 22nd August that the company had agreed to remove the advertising images showing the child in their branded clothing without the need for the ASA to launch a formal investigation.

The ASA found that the company was in direct breach of the following Codes:

22.1 Marketing communications for e-cigarettes must be socially responsible
22.9 Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18. People shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.
22.10 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.

Commenting, Director of Policy Hazel Cheeseman said:

“We are delighted the ASA have acted swiftly given what a serious breach of the advertising code this was. It sends a clear message to all e-cigarette companies that their marketing must be socially responsible and not targeted at children.

“E-cigarettes have helped many adults to quit smoking and advertising products responsibly has played a part in this. However, advertising aimed at children is rightly prohibited and the speed of the ASA reaction in this case is very reassuring.”

E-cigarette advertising depicting or targeting children is prohibited because of the risk it will encourage young people to try products. Nicotine has been shown to have an impact on adolescent brains [3] so there are particular concerns about young people who have never smoked using e-cigarettes.


Notes and Links:
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview and have an ISDN line. For more information contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.


[1] The Sun, Smoke Without Fire?, 21st August 2017: https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/4288944/pageant-girl-7-faces-backlash-after-a-vaping-company-sponsor-her-100-to-promote-their-shop/

[2] Full ASA rules on e-cigarettes are here: https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/electronic-cigarettes.html#children

[3] Goriounova NA, Mansvelder HD. Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Nicotine Exposure during Adolescence for Prefrontal Cortex Neuronal Network Function. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543069/