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British American Tobacco Banned From Advertising E-cigarettes On Instagram

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The UK's advertising watchdog has banned British American Tobacco from using public Instagram accounts to advertise e-cigarettes in the UK.

The ban follows complaints earlier this year by health organizations, who have welcomed the ruling as "a huge step forward."

The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority or ASA also ordered British American Tobacco to remove all Instagram advertisements for the company's e-cigarette brand, Vype, that were under investigation.

The ban includes British American Tobacco or BAT's use of celebrities and social media influencers to advertise e-cigarettes.

Health organizations such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Action on Smoking and Health or ASH, and Stopping Tobacco Organizations & Products or STOP complained to the ASA earlier this year that BAT's advertisements were likely to appeal to young people below 18 years of age.

The complaints alleged that BAT has paid influencers under 25 to promote Vype on social media despite the company's internal marketing policies stating it will not do so.

U.K. regulations prohibit online advertising of e-cigarettes. However, e-cigarette manufacturers are allowed to provide factual product information such as the name, price and content of the product on their own websites.

BAT promotes Vype e-cigarettes through accounts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The company has argued its online campaigns were intended to only provide factual information about Vype.

But the ASA disagreed and ruled that the posts clearly went beyond the provision of factual information and were promotional in nature. Further, the ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in the form complained about and upheld complaints that BAT's ads breached online advertising laws by using models under 25.

Mark Hurley, director of international communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, welcomed the ASA ruling, saying it was a huge step forward in preventing tobacco companies from using social media to advertise to young people.

"While the ASA ruling is great news, urgent policy change is needed from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to prevent BAT and other tobacco companies from using social media to advertise their harmful products to young people around the world," Hurley added.

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