A london red bus with an advert panel on the side showing an advert for Elf Bar Vapes

Elf Bar vaping ads BANNED following Adfree Cities complaint

An advert for vaping retailer Elf Bar has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today for making misleading green claims and for highlighting an environmental benefit that resulted from a legal obligation.

Adfree Cities was 1 of 10 complainants to take issue with the ad, which showed a disposable vape under the words “recycling for a greener future” and “green awareness”. The ad appeared on a London bus and a digital ad screen in London in July and August. You can read our original complaint here.

The ruling highlights a major loophole in the law around vape advertising. Other than trade-specific press, advertising for nicotine-containing vapes is currently only permissible in two situations, point of sale and outdoor advertising – a loophole in the law that Adfree Cities wants to see closed.

James Ward, a campaigner at Adfree Cities, said: “Just as cigarettes scar the bodies of smokers, so has the rise in popularity of disposable vapes left a toxic legacy of plastic and harmful battery metals on our environment. 

“Advertising for nicotine-containing vapes is prohibited on TV, radio, in print and online. That it is permitted on outdoor advertising is a glaring loophole in the law and highlights how outdoor advertising sadly so often provides a willing platform for polluting companies. 

“That’s why we’re calling for a universal ban on vape advertising, a measure that will close the existing loophole in the law and go some way to reducing the presence of these environmentally disastrous products on our streets and in our lives.” 

End Vape Ads

As is often the case with ASA rulings, whilst we’re thrilled by the outcome the fact is that reactive regulation is simply too slow and too piecemeal to effectively shut down greenwash and other misleading advertising. That’s why Adfree Cities want the government ban all vape advertising. Closing the loophole that allows ads for nicotine-containing vapes on outdoor advertising would be a good place to start.

The ASA’s ruling comes as pressure mounts on vaping suppliers as the extent of both the health cost and environmental harm caused by the UK’s growing disposable vape use becomes clear. In 2022, 260 million disposable vapes were thrown away in the UK, making them a leading cause of the rise in plastic pollution in recent years.

A government consultation on smoking and youth vaping is ongoing and contains such provisions as a ban on point of sale marketing for vape products and on the use of child-friendly imagery such as cartoons and bright colours in vape marketing. Adfree Cities will be using the consultation to call for an outright vaping ad ban.

Plastic pollution

Electronic waste. is the fastest growing waste stream in the UK with 155,000 tonnes thrown away each year and vapes forming a large part of that. It is estimated that half of disposable vapes are thrown away and not recycled.

In 2022 disposable vapes became the most popular type of e-cigarette sold (at 52.0 percent of sales, compared to just 7.7 percent in 2021), with the most popular brands being Elf Bar and Geek Bar. Research from campaign group Materials Focus found that just 17 percent of vapers report correctly recycling their vapes.

The advert gave the impression that recycling vapes is easy and can be done at home. However, vaping products cannot, in general, be home recycled, but rather have to be taken to special recycling facilities, such as council-run waste centres. The difficulty of recycling vapes was highlighted in a recent Guardian article.

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