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TikTok vaping adverts for Elf Bar and HQD Tech - one featuring Gogglebox star - banned by UK watchdog

TikTok vaping adverts for Elf Bar and HQD Tech - one featuring Gogglebox star - banned by UK watchdog

After a judgement by the Advertising Standards Authority, TikTok said the adverts violated its own policies and guidelines, and breached its terms of service, which prevents the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

Adverts by influencers promoting vaping products on TikTok have been banned by a UK watchdog, after they were found to have broken advertising rules.

Two posts have been pulled, relating to products made by Elf Bar and HQD Tech.

One video, from the user @Panaxhe_ shows a young man choosing a blueberry-flavoured Elf Bar for breakfast, a brightly coloured device, before returning later for lunch, grabbing a passion fruit-flavoured vape.

Another, from former Gogglebox contributor George Baggs, who was 19 years old when he posted the advert, shows him holding up an HDQ device called Wave, still in its packaging, with a caption: "Matching my outfit with my new HQD v@pe".

The @ symbol is often used instead of the letter A on TikTok in an attempt to get around the censorship of certain words that are banned, which results in videos being removed.

As the video went on, Mr Baggs got dressed while smoking the vape, with text saying: "Always get asked to do these sorta [sic] vids so here ya go ?? #HQDVIP #uk #trending."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) looked into whether the posts broke rules around promoting unlicensed, nicotine-containing, devices on TikTok.

There are tight regulations targeted at the promotion of vaping products in the UK, that are designed to prevent the marketing of them to young people.

Promotions for the devices on TikTok, where users must be older than 13 years old, appear to flout the rules.

Green Fun Alliance, which was trading as Elf Bar, said it had asked the creator to take down their content, adding it would improve its monitoring online, to ensure it complied with the rules.

As a result of the ASA complaint, it stopped promotion on TikTok in the UK.

Screengrab from the banned Elf Bar TikTok video


HDQ Tech said it did not think Mr Baggs was encouraging viewers to try its product, but it had removed the content from the influencer until the conclusion of the ASA investigation.

Off Limits Entertainment, on behalf of Mr Baggs, said it had spoken to HQD Tech and would make sure he did not promote any more vaping products in the future.

TikTok said the advert about the Elf Bar product violated its own policies and guidelines, while the HQD post breached its terms of service, which prevents the advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

It also said both posts had appeared in the "For You" page, which is an algorithm-led part of the app where posts can appear without the need for following a user.

On the HQD Tech ad, the ASA ruled: "Notwithstanding that we did not consider the ad was permitted on TikTok - anyone shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25.

"George Baggs, a public figure, known from the television programme Gogglebox, was shown smoking an e-cigarette in the video, and we understood that he was aged 19 at the time the ad was posted. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code."

The ASA also ruled that the Elf Bar ad must not appear again, adding: "We told Green Fun Alliance that marketing communications with the direct or indirect effect of promoting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their components which were not licensed as medicines should not be made from a public TikTok account."

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