This is an extract from the  response by Action on Smoking and Health to the consultation by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice.

Relevant Facts

The following are relevant facts about “electronic cigarettes” that should guide the final rules on how they are advertised.


  1.  Electronic cigarettes are not cigarettes in any meaningful sense, they are nicotine delivery systems that do not contain tobacco, where the nicotine is delivered orally to the user in the form of vapour rather than in the form of smoke. They are therefore much closer in kind to other non-tobacco licensed nicotine products, such as sprays, patches and gum, than they are to cigarettes.
  2. Nicotine is an addictive drug that can be toxic in relatively low doses. However, by far the greatest harm caused by cigarettes results from other toxic ingredients of cigarette smoke.
  3. Electronic cigarettes are therefore significantly less harmful than smoked tobacco, and are currently primarily used by smokers as an aid to cutting down on cigarette use or quitting smoking altogether.
  4. Nonetheless, advertising and promotion of products containing an addictive drug should always be subject to close supervision by regulatory authorities, since addiction undermines the principle of informed consent by adult consumers.

ASH estimated that in 2013 there were 1.3 million current users of electronic cigarettes in the UK, and the number has continued to grow since then. This number is almost entirely made of current and ex-smokers; with perhaps as many as 400,000 people having fully replaced smoking with e-cigarette use.3 There is little evidence to suggest that anything more than a negligible number of never smokers regularly use the product. Research carried out for ASH also suggests that there is no current compelling evidence to suggest that young people are using electronic cigarettes as a “gateway” to smoking.3 However, this could change particularly if advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes glamourises the use of these products and promotes their use to young people.

Under the EU Tobacco Products Directive cross-border advertising of electronic cigarettes will be unlawful after the Directive comes into effect (likely in about mid-2016), unless they are authorised as medicinal products. This means that no TV, radio, electronic or print advertising will be allowed. The advertising permitted will essentially be limited to advertising which only has domestic reach such as billboard, bus and point of sale. The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said that it: “continues to encourage companies to voluntarily submit medicines licence applications for electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products as medicines”.

This is an evolving market and it is highly likely that novel nicotine containing products, which do not fit within the category of ‘electronic cigarettes’ will enter the market. We therefore recommend that these rules cover all non-tobacco nicotine containing products, not just electronic cigarettes, so that they remain fit for purpose as the market evolves. This generic point applies to all the rules.

As a general point the use of the descriptor ‘e-cigarette’ or ‘electronic cigarette’ has exacerbated general concern about these products and misunderstandings about what they are and their risk profile. Increasingly users themselves are referring to these products as ‘vapourisers’, their use as ‘vaping’ and users as ‘vapers’. We think it would be helpful if CAP required this terminology and prohibited the use in advertising of the words ‘e-cigarette’ or ‘electronic cigarette’ and descriptions of their use as ‘smoking’ and users as ‘smokers’. If this is not considered possible at the very least it should be required that the full term ‘electronic cigarette’ be used and not the shortened form ‘e-cigarette’ as this provides a clearer description of what they are.

General Principles

We therefore recommend that the revised set of rules adopted by CAP and BCAP following this consultation should be consistent with the following principles:

  1. Regulation of un-licenced electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should be consistent with that for licenced products. For example, celebrity endorsement and free samples are not allowed for licenced nicotine containing products and should not be allowed for electronic cigarettes either.
  2. Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should not be advertised or promoted in ways that could reasonably be expected to promote smoking of tobacco products.
  3. As far as possible, electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should be advertised as an alternative to smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.
  4. Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should not be advertised in ways or through channels that could reasonably be expected to make them appealing to non-tobacco users.
  5. Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine containing products should not be advertised in ways or through channels that could reasonably be expected to make them appealing to children and young people.


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  1. Tony Jewell says:

    Very helpful contribution. Protecting children and you g people needs more work as does the confusion about “vamping” in no smoking areas which is causing confusion. This is because of the e cigarette delivery system which looks just like smoking cigarettes.

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