Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Smoking

Last gasp for e-cigarette ads that glamorise the habit?

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 27 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g475
  1. Meg Carter, freelance journalist
  1. 1Bath, UK
  1. meg{at}

The battle over how to regulate the advertising of e-cigarettes has begun. After falling foul of regulators last year, industry faces new rules within months, but not without a fight first. Meg Carter reports

New UK rules on advertising of electronic cigarettes could be introduced within months following a full public consultation in February. But with uncertainty about whether e-cigarettes will fall under medicinal or tobacco product regulations in 2016, the e-cigarettes marketing debate looks set to run and run.

Currently, e-cigarettes are regulated in the UK as consumer products. This means advertising must adhere to two sets of guidelines from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), which regulate UK advertising in print and online and on television and radio.

The first set is general and requires that adverts are not misleading, harmful, or offensive. The second restricts advertising of tobacco products. So, as consumer products, e-cigarettes cannot be promoted as a smoking cessation device.

Nor can adverts claim that smoking e-cigarettes containing vaporised nicotine is healthier than smoking conventional cigarettes or risk-free without robust clinical evidence. Adverts must also clarify whether the e-cigarette contains nicotine. Meanwhile to meet tobacco rules, adverts must not refer to smoking or have a name or design that an audience might associate with a tobacco product, and they cannot target children.

The degree of latitude for advertisers is also affected by the medium in which an advert appears. Under the current rules, broadcast advertising is more tightly restricted. …

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