First News Goes into BAT

Posted 1st May 2019 by Dave Cross
First Group Enterprises Ltd, trading as the ‘First News’ newspaper for children, reported a British American Tobacco (BAT) Vype advert to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The company’s anti tobacco-harm reduction stance was evident in a Martin McKee article it published last year. The complaint was rejected.

ASA reports that it received a complaint about an advert “that appeared in a public space at a bus stop used by a significant proportion of children and challenged whether the ad had been appropriately placed.”

BAT responded to say that the site was part of a package sold by media buying agencies that “had been deemed appropriate for the placement of ads for alcoholic products as well as other restricted products such as online gaming and certain types of food and carbonated soft drinks.”

“The location complied with the so-called ‘100 metre rule’ which meant that certain products must not be advertised within 100 metres of a school, in order to avoid inadvertently directing the ad at people who were under 18 years old.”

The three nearest schools to the bus stop were located t 132, 321 and 482 metres from the bus stop. The services from the bus stop run through urban surroundings and are not dedicated to any school or college.

ASA states: “The CAP Code required that ads for electronic cigarettes must not be directed at people under 18 years of age through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared and that no medium should be used to advertise e-cigarettes if more than 25% of its audience was under the age of 18.”

The agency rejected First News’ complaint as “there were significant distances between the ad and the nearest schools and that steps had been taken to ensure that the ad was not displayed near schools.”

Also, “the bus stop was already categorised as being appropriate for the placement of age-restricted products and we considered the location of the bus stop and the routes it served meant that the majority of the likely audience using the bus stop, or passing by it in vehicles, would comprise people over 18.”

“We therefore concluded that the ad’s placement did not breach the Code.”

In 2018, First News carried an article that may as well have come directly from the pen of Martin McKee himself. It included a list of factual errors and outright lies.

The article asserted:

  • “e-cigarette flavours and packaging are targeted at kids”
  • “experts are worried because not enough is known about them”
  • “lots of evidence that there are problems already, so we can be pretty clear that there are considerable risks”
  • “[Vaping is] definitely causing changes in the cardiovascular system”
  • “We know that they only work for some people and overall reduce the probability of quitting”

As the paper claims it wants “all children to be informed”, we engaged in a dialogue with the editor following publication of our article. First News does not appear to understand the importance of tobacco-harm reduction and (with this latest action) appears to be pushing an ideological agenda. We provided them with a list of genuine experts to speak to during our last email exchange and would be willing to do so again.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker