Influencers have been banned by UK regulators after they were found to have broken advertising rules by promoting vaping products on TikTok.
Two posts have been deleted, relating to products produced by Elf Bar and HQD Tech.
A video posted by user @Panaxhe_ shows a young man choosing a blueberry-flavored Elf Bar (a brightly colored device) for breakfast and returning for lunch holding a passion fruit-flavored e-cigarette.
Another, from former Gogglebox contributor George Baggs, who was 19 when he posted the ad, shows him holding an HDQ device called the Wave, still in its packaging, with the headline: “Take my gear Matches my new HQD v@pe”.
On TikTok, the @ symbol is often used in place of the letter A in an attempt to bypass censorship of certain banned words, which resulted in videos being taken down.
As the video continues, Mr Baggs gets dressed while puffing on a vape, captioning the caption: “Being asked to do these things all the time [sic] vids so you’re gone? ? #HQDVIP #uk #trending. “
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated whether the posts breached rules on the promotion of unlicensed, nicotine-containing devices on TikTok.
The UK has strict rules on the promotion of vaping products, aimed at preventing the marketing of vaping products to young people.
Device promotions on TikTok appear to be against regulations requiring users to be at least 13 years old.
The Green Fun Alliance, which trades under the name Elf Bar, said it had asked creators to take down their content, adding that it would step up online monitoring to ensure it followed the rules.
It stopped promoting TikTok in the UK following a complaint from the ASA.
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HDQ Tech said it believed Mr Baggs had not encouraged viewers to try its product, but it removed the influencer’s content before the ASA’s investigation was concluded.
Off Limits Entertainment, representing Mr Baggs, said it had spoken to HQD Tech and ensured he would not promote any vaping products in the future.
TikTok said advertisements for Elf Bar products violated its own policies and guidelines, while the HQD post violated its terms of service, which prohibits the advertisement of cigarettes and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
It also said both posts appeared in the “for you” page, an algorithm-driven part of the app that displays posts without following users.
Of HQD Tech’s ad, the ASA ruled: “While we believe that the ad is not permitted on TikTok – anyone showing vaping or playing a significant role must not be or appear to be under the age of 25.
“George Baggs, a public figure on the TV show Gogglebox who vapes in a video, we understand was 19 years old when the ad was posted. We have therefore concluded that the ad violated the code.”
The ASA also ruled that the Elf Bar ad must not reappear, adding: “We told Green Fun Alliance that marketing communications that directly or indirectly promote nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and their ingredients should not be licensed as drugs produced by public TikTok accounts.”