New e-cigarette ad rules to tackle ‘uncertainty’ proposed

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has launched a public consultation into e-cigarette advertising that could lead to the introduction of new rules designed to protect the young and stop the indirect promotion of tobacco products. 

Video: The latest ad campaign for e-cigarette brand Vype 


Currently, e-cigarettes are included in rules for the tobacco industry designed to prevent the indirect promotion of tobacco products. However CAP, the sister body of the Advertising Standards Authority responsible for writing the UK advertising code, says it wants to introduce specific rules for e-cigarettes designed to address “public concern” and end “uncertainty” among e-cigarette advertisers.

The new proposals could lead to specific rules designed to protect the young including prohibiting e-cigarette ads from appealing to under 18s or showing anyone under the age of 25 using an e-cigarette.

They would also make it a requirement for advertisers to make clear the product is an e-cigarette and highlight whether it contains nicotine. Rules to stop e-cigarette marketers being able to claim any health or medicinal purposes unless they have a license that says otherwise are also being considered.

CAP secretary Shahriar Coupal says: “The market for e-cigarettes is fast-growing and the existing rules haven’t been able to give advertisers the clarity they need. By proposing specific new rules, we’re providing a clear framework for responsible advertising.”

The advertising watchdog has already launched a crackdown into e-cigarette companies that do not make it clear enough in their marketing that their products contain nicotine and are not available to consumers under the age of 18. SKYCIG saw its ad, which was the first UK TV e-cigarette ad, banned last year for failing to make clear it was an e-cigarette and contained nicotine.

More recently, VIP also had its e-cigarette ad censured after receiving more than 1,150 complaints, although it was cleared over accusations it “glamorised” the nicotine product and could encourage excessive or inappropriate use.

E-cigarette companies have since focused on brand, rather than product, campaigns. SKYCIG is looking to get rid of the stigma associated with smoking and position itself as a “lifestyle brand” in its latest campaign, while British American Tobacco has launched a “responsible” campaign for its “modern brand” Vype.

The European Union is also considering the future of e-cigarette advertising. It passed rules last night that, from 2016, would mean each member state has to decide if e-cigarettes are medicine or tobacco products.

If a country decides to classify them as tobacco products they will be subject to the same ad restrictions as tobacco products and would have to carry health warnings. If they decide for medicine they would be subject to pharmaceutical laws. The changes still need to be approved by member states, which is expected in April.

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