On May 10th, ElfBar, a disposable e-cigarette brand, announced that it had removed all of its marketing on TikTok after being found in violation of advertising standards. The brand was criticized by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for a TikTok post from the account @Panaxhe_ that promoted the e-cigarette brand in violation of advertising rules.
The May post featured a young person’s daily life, including using ElfBar e-cigarettes. In the video post, the person wrote on a notebook why they liked their rechargeable disposable e-cigarette from ElfBar. The text on the screen stated the rich flavor and how the rechargeable product saved a lot of money, with a heart emoji. The post was determined to be promoting e-cigarettes and was considered to be in violation of rules because it was a public post that any TikTok user could view.
In response to the ASA, ElfBar’s owner, Green Fun Alliance, stated that they will improve their internal review and monitoring mechanisms to ensure that all online content complies with regulatory requirements. They stated that they have conducted an internal investigation into their outsourced marketing agency to understand how the video was produced. The company also added that their outsourced marketing provider released the video without necessary checks with ElfBar.
TikTok stated that the video did not appear in paid advertising space, but due to a violation of its brand content policy and community guidelines, the post has been removed from the platform. ElfBar also added that it will stop all TikTok marketing in the UK due to a complaint initially raised by Imperial Tobacco.
Last summer, an OBServer investigation found that ElfBar regularly promoted its products on TikTok, with many posts showing influential people claiming to receive compensation and benefits from free products by promoting e-cigarettes on camera. This week, the second e-cigarette brand, HQD, was found to have been infiltrated after former Gogglebox contributor George Baggs posted a TikTok video matching his outfit with his HQD e-cigarette.
In the post, the 19-year-old said he was matching his outfit with his HQD e-cigarette. HQD claimed they did not believe he was encouraging viewers to try the product, but the ASA disagreed and banned the ad from appearing again.
A recent survey by ASH found that TikTok is the most common place where respondents saw e-cigarette promotions online, with nearly half saying they have seen such promotions. The survey also found that over half (56%) of 11-17 year-olds knew about e-cigarette promotions, with TikTok and Instagram being the most commonly mentioned online promotion sources in the report.
The government is currently looking for evidence on how to curb the rise in e-cigarette use among young people, with a focus on the role of social media.