E-cigarette advertising in the UK: a content analysis of traditional and social media advertising to observe compliance with current regulations


Stead M, Ford A, Angus K, MacKintosh AM, Purves R & Mitchell D (2021) E-cigarette advertising in the UK: a content analysis of traditional and social media advertising to observe compliance with current regulations. Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

Introduction The advertising of e-cigarettes in the UK is regulated through the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations, with further rules set out in the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Committees of Advertising (CAP) Code. Focusing on the ASA CAP Code Rules, we examined e-cigarette advertising regulation compliance in traditional advertising channels and on social media. Methods We conducted a content analysis of UK e-cigarette and related product advertising using a randomly selected sample (n=130) of advertising in traditional channels and on Instagram which appeared between January and December 2019. All ads were independently double-coded to assess compliance with each CAP Code Rule. Results In traditional channels, our sample of advertising had largely good compliance. Only very small numbers of these ads appeared to be clearly in breach of any of the ASA rules (5% were in breach of Rule 22.7; 2% of Rule 22.9; and 1% of Rule 22.10). In contrast, we judged that all of the Instagram sample (n=30) was in breach of Rule 22.12. For some rules, it was not possible to make definitive judgements about compliance, given uncertainty regarding how a rule should be interpreted and applied. Conclusions We found overall good compliance for advertising in traditional channels, but assessed all of our social media advertising sample was in breach of regulations. Current guidance on e-cigarette advertising could be improved to facilitate e-cigarette advertising assessment and regulation. It would be beneficial to bring consumer perspectives into the assessment of regulation compliance. Implications The regulation of e-cigarette advertising is a global concern. The UK Government has a statutory obligation to review the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations by May 2021. This study assessed compliance with current UK e-cigarette advertising regulations on placement and content. We identified areas where greater clarity is needed and outlined implications for future regulation.

e-cigarettes; e-liquids; ENDS; marketing; advertising; social media; policy; content analysis

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Nicotine and Tobacco Research

StatusIn Press
FundersCRUK Cancer Research UK
Publication date online15/04/2021
Date accepted by journal15/04/2021
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)