The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered British American Tobacco (BAT) to stop advertising its e-cigarettes on Instagram.
The advertising watchdog also directed the company to remove all ads related to its Vype e-cigarette on the social media platform.
The decision follows complaints about seven Vype Instagram post that health groups said are likely to appeal to those below 18 years of age.
Action on Smoking and Health, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products also alleged the company had used models who appeared to be under 25, which is prohibited in the U.K.
The ASA rejected a complaint that BAT had deliberately targeted anyone other than adults through its Instagram posts.
While U.K. laws ban online advertising of e-cigarettes, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive permits manufacturers to provide factual product information on their websites.
However, the ASA ruled that social media accounts are not the same as websites, and therefore BAT could not use the platforms for disseminating factual or promotional content on e-cigarettes.
“The ASA’s ruling is a huge step forward in preventing tobacco companies from using social media to advertise to young people in the U.K. and around the world,” said Mark Hurley, director of international communications for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“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.”
A BAT spokesperson said the company would comply with the ruling.