Breaking News: UK Allows Health Claims For Vaping

While the UK was close to banning vaping in 2010, since then it’s slowly come to have one of the most vape friendly attitudes in the world – at least, as far it can under EU tobacco laws.

Now the United Kingdom has taken another step forward by, finally, allowing health claims to be made.

The announcement has come from the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP and BCAP), which state:

health claims are no longer banned from ads for e-cigarettes.

Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail, and there are still limitations and a lack of clarity around what we are allowed to do.

How have vape advertising regulations changed?

For a ruling with big implications, the actual text changes are quite small!

Old rules:

22.5 Marketing communications must not contain health or medicinal claims unless the product is authorised for those purposes by the MHRA. E-cigarettes may be presented as an alternative to tobacco but marketers must do nothing to undermine the message that quitting tobacco use is the best option for health.

New rules:

22.5 Marketing communications must not contain health or medicinal claims unless the product is authorised for those purposes by the MHRA. E-cigarettes may be presented as an alternative to tobacco but marketers must do nothing to undermine the message that quitting tobacco use is the best option for health.

So, what can the vape industry now say?

Unfortunately, the claims we can make are still limited.

We can’t say that a particular range of products is safer than smoking, unless we can pull on evidence for that particular range of products.

In other words, vape retailers can make broad claims but can not tie those claims to any particular product.

It gets trickier again, as the Advertising and Standards Agency (ASA) say that when an advertiser makes broad claims about vaping, it is “very likely” that these claims will be tied to a particular product.

The documentation also states that the Public Health England statement that vaping is 95% safer than smoking is not going to be allowed for specific products, but makes no mention of whether this is going to be allowed for general claims.

In essence, it appears that manufacturers will need to commission their own studies before making any health claims that could be related to their products.

What’s more, we are still not allowed to make medicinal claims. That’s fair enough – ecigs are not a medicine, after all – but could lead to confusion about what we are allowed to say, especially as even ASA admit that the difference can be confusing. The ASA do give some clarification here.  In particular, they advise the words “cure”, “restore”, “prevent”, “avoid”, “fight” or “heal” are likely to be considered a medical claim.

Continuing restrictions on vape marketing

Unfortunately, there are continuing restrictions on (nicotine containing) electronic cigarettes. These may not be advertised in a range of media including radio, newspapers and TV. (We’ve covered these in more details in our post here: How EU’s TPD E-Cigarette Regulations Will Affect Retailers  as well as detailed advice on how you can market your business here.)

These don’t apply to non-nicotine containing products, although that’s a bit of a minefield in itself – for example, a non-nicotine brand cannot be advertised if there is a version of the brand which contains nicotine.

Change In nicotine content labelling

Buried in the text is also another change, which states that:

BCAP has also approved two minor changes to its Code, which remove the requirement to state nicotine content and to make the e-cigarettes section permanent.

We’re not sure what that means yet. Currently we need to state:

This product contains nicotine. 

even when we sell devices (which don’t contain nicotine). So you’ll often see the accompanying statement: Only when used with nicotine. Can we now remove this?

The implications of health claims for e-cigs

The implications goes further, though.

One major factor why the smoking rates in England have not fallen further is because many people think vaping is as bad as or worse than smoking. That’s partially because of a campaign of disinformation coming out of certain parts of the USA. Until now neither companies nor public health have legally been able to counter these claims with a marketing campaign. That’s now changed.

A major announcement like this also sends out a positive signal to consumers that vaping is far safer than smoking. It may not have gone as far as we’d like, but it’s a major step forward in the right direction.

For more information, see the announcement by ASA website here: Claims about health in ads for e-cigarettes.

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One thought on “Breaking News: UK Allows Health Claims For Vaping

  1. If only we can bring this to Australia!
    Selling nicotine in Sydney, Australia is illegal. Not sure about other states though.
    I have to order a bottle of nico from overseas.

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