By law, businesses selling vaping products are allowed to market their products by distributing free samples via third-party marketing firms. However, health entities in the UK have pointed out that a loophole in the current regulatory framework means it is legal for marketing companies to hand out vapes to minors.
ASH pointed out that a marketing team promoting Vype, has recently approached and offered a free sample to a 17 year old girl, in return for her email address. Before being handed the product, the girl was at no point told that the product contains nicotine or asked to verify her age.
“The hypocrisy of BAT is staggering,” said chief executive of Ash, Deborah Arnott. “The company’s website piously states: ‘It’s essential that any tobacco or nicotine products are not marketed to youth. Given the nature of our products, we take seriously our commitment to market them responsibly and only to adults.’ How can they say that doling freebies out like sweets to children counts as responsible marketing?”
The loophole exists because e-cigs do not fall under the UK Tobacco Act
The wording of the relevant sections of the Tobacco and Related Products Act related to vape regulations, is too vague.
On approaching the National Trading Standards to verify the legal framework in place, ASH learned that a loophole in the law means it is not illegal to hand out free e-cigarettes to minors. This is because in the UK e-cigarettes are not regulated tobacco products and therefore are not covered by the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act “prohibition of free distribution” rules.
ASH pointed out that the wording of the relevant sections of the Tobacco and Related Products Act, pertaining to vape regulations is too vague when it comes to prohibiting the distribution of free products to minors.
“A review of the regulations is required by law and is expected to be launched imminently,” said Arnott. “We have written to the public health minister to make her aware of this gaping hole in the government’s e-cigarette regulations and to urge her to use the review to plug this legal loophole. This is yet another example of Big Tobacco saying one thing and doing another, living up to the letter of the law but not the spirit.”
BAT said their marketing firm is to blame
In response to these claims BAT diverted the blame on the marketing firm they use. “We take our responsibility to prevent underage access to vaping products extremely seriously and are clear that they are intended for adult smokers and nicotine users only.”
“Our one-to-one consumer engagement activities in the UK market are conducted by a third-party supplier who has been extensively trained to ensure that the only people who are engaged are over 18 years old, are an existing smoker, and are informed that the product contains nicotine. We are speaking to our third-party supplier about this alleged incident.”
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