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Advertising in your Store

Prohibited and Regulated Products

There are some products that have particular rules to take into account when planning advertising in your store. Whether advertisements and promotions for your in-store products such as alcohol and tobacco, or adverts for other local businesses, we’ll give you an overview of things that you might need to be aware of.


The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) recommends that promoters should take legal advice before offering promotions with prizes, including competitions, prize draws, instant-wins, and incentive schemes, to ensure that the mechanisms involved do not make them unlawful lotteries. Doing so might contravene the gambling Act 2005. The rules cover the promotion itself as well as the marketing of it.

Promoters must conduct their promotions equitably, promptly and efficiently and be seen to deal fairly and honourably with participants and potential participants. Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment – use of phrases such as “subject to availability” isn’t enough by itself to avoid causing disappointment.

Promoters must be able to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable estimate of the likely response to a promotion and are able to meet any commitment. Promoters must award the prizes as described in their marketing communications normally within 30 days.

Read more about the ASA Code on Promotions.

Advertising Alcohol

Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. Marketing communications for alcoholic drinks should not imply, condone or encourage immoderate, irresponsible or anti-social drinking. It is also important that ads do not imply that alcohol can overcome boredom or loneliness, or that it has therapeutic qualities and is capable of changing mood or behaviour.

Read more about the ASA Code on Alcohol.

Advertising Alcohol in Scotland

There are specific restrictions on the pricing and promotion of alcoholic drinks sold in off-licensed premises in Scotland. This legislation primarily affects the retail of alcoholic drinks and places responsibility on the retailer.

If your store is in Scotland you already know that You need to follow the minimum unit price on alcohol if you sell alcohol and hold either a premises licence or an occasional licence. You need to make sure that none of the alcohol you sell is less than 50p per unit. You must sell alcohol at the right price, with no exceptions.

This affects the type of promotion you are legally permitted to advertise – it would preclude you from offering a discount from the price of a shopping basket if it contained alcohol if it meant that the alcohol would be sold at less than the MUP. Multibuy promotions on alcohol and buy one get one free deals are banned in Scotland.

Read more about the ASA Code on Alcohol and Pricing in Scotland.
Advertising alcohol

Tobacco, rolling papers and filters

Tobacco products may not be advertised to the public. Rolling papers are not subject to the same rules but the guide is clear that the promotion of items associated with tobacco should be marketing responsibly without appearing to promote smoking, especially to those under 18.

Read more about tobacco advertising.

Electronic Cigarettes

E-Cigarettes must be clearly portrayed as an “e-cigarette” product and not a tobacco-based product. They must not portray the use of a tobacco product in a positive light and must not be aimed at under 18s or with the aim of getting a non-smoker to take up the use of a nicotine product. Marketing communications for e-cigarettes must contain nothing which promotes any design, imagery or logo style that might reasonably be associated with a tobacco brand. E-cigarettes cannot be seen in promotional materials to be used by a person under the age of 25. This is not an exhaustive list.

Read more about nicotine related advertising.

Weight Loss Products or Programmes

Products that are advertised with regards to weight loss may also fall under the code regulations for medicines and food supplements. Any claim made for the effectiveness of a slimming plan must be backed by rigorous trials on real people. Slimming advertisements must not aim to appeal to those under 18 or promote being underweight as desirable or acceptable. Diets must not make specific statements on how much weight will be lost.

Read more about Weight Loss Products or Programmes advertising.

Food Supplements

Marketing commercial food supplements is not expected to be educational but it must not undermine the message from public health information in promoting a varied and balanced diet by misleading or confusing consumers.

Read more about Food Supplement advertising.

Gambling and Lotteries

Marketing communications for gambling and Lotteries are required to be socially responsible, with extra care taken to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited. The ASA advise that specialist legal advice should be sought when considering advertising any gambling product in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Read more about advertising Gambling and Lotteries.

If you need further information

Please note that this article is not a full and definitive guide but is intended to highlight some things you could encounter when setting up advertisements. We strongly advise that if you require more information that you read more on the Advertising Standards Agency website.

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