ASA bans advertising claims with health subtext

By Nicola Gordon-Seymour

- Last updated on GMT

ASA bans advertising claims with health subtext

Related tags: smokepops, Asa, Essential oil

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint relating to online advertising against Smokepops LDN, which it deemed misleading and socially irresponsible.

The online retailer sells “crushable flavoured balls”​ that users insert into the filter of a cigarette to alter the flavour and advertisers the product alongside the claim “safe to use made with lab-tested organic ingredients”.

A complaint was submitted to the authority that raised concerns about the irresponsible nature of a product demonstration video that promotes smoking and featured on Facebook in January.

It also challenged the use of both the video and “safe to use..” claim on the brand website, as well as two additional claims with potential misleading and irresponsible content: “smokepops are formulated with organic essential oils, a healthy option that leaves your tastebuds excited and wanting more,​” and “made with optimum ingredients for optimum health​”.

The complainant particularly objected to the wording “safe to use​”, “optimum health​”, and a “healthy option​”, because the product is intended for use while smoking cigarettes.

Misleading and irresponsible

When presented with the complaint, Smokepops maintained it did not intend to promote harmful or unhealthy behaviour and assured the authority that the manufacturer held the relevant safety certification and ingredient quality assurance to support the claims under dispute.

Nevertheless, it agreed to amend the content and remove the claims under investigation.

The ASA subsequently upheld all three complaints. It considered that showing a cigarette in the video demonstration “had the effect of encouraging smoking​” and concluded the ads were irresponsible under CAP Code rule 1.3., which relates to social responsibility and states that “marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society​”.

Meanwhile, in its ruling on the health claims, the authority draws attention to the fact that smoking is harmful to health and therefore considered the claims “safe to use​”, “optimum health​”, and “a healthy option​” misleading and irresponsible under CAP rules 1.3 and 3.1, due to its intended use in conjunction with cigarettes.

The latter rule refers to Misleading advertising and indicates that “marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so”.

ASA action

The authority’s ruling prohibits the use of Smokepop adverts “in the forms complained of​” and the retailer was told to ensure that advertising “did not encourage smoking or suggest that the products were safe or healthy”​.

However, it welcomed Smokepop’s assurance that it would remove the claims and refrain from using terminology with implied health subtext for products designed for use with cigarettes.

Smokepop ‘crush balls’ are sold in ‘portable pods’ with around 100 flavoured balls contains silica gel, although there is no detailed product information on the brand website.

The gel balls are inserted into cigarette filters using a plastic stick that comes with the pods. Packaging graphics are designed to appeal to younger consumers as are the flavours (blueberry mint, ice sprite, ice grape, ice strawberry, ice banana, ice watermelon, ice tropical, and sour apple).

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