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Advertising Guidelines Proposed for E-Cigs

Britain's Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast CAP (BCAP) have proposed 12 advertising guidelines for e-cigarettes, and initiated discussions with representatives of the vaping industry, as well as soliciting feedback from the general public.

Commenting on the proposals that e-cig adverts should be socially responsible, should not depict tobacco positively, and should specify that the product is not for under 18s, Katherine Devlin, President of ECITA (the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association), has called the document "a very rational, commonsense approach," according to the trade publication, The Grocer.

The one proposal that has aroused criticism from the industry, and that is likely to be the focus of debate, is the suggestion that e-cigarette advertising should not depict any relationship between vaping and the use of alcohol. Michael Clapper of Vapestick, now President International of Victory Electronic Cigarettes (a US firm that recently acquired Vapestick), argues that "many smokers enjoy a cigarette at their local pub, bar or club," making such venues a prime location for an advert pitching a smoking alternative. "We hope to achieve a higher degree of flexibility on this," he says.

The proposed guidelines include:

1. There is a requirement of "social responsibility."

2. Adverts may not promote smoking or depict it positively, but may depict "cigarette-like products." The wording here is careful. CAP acknowledges that there are significant fears that smoking will be indirectly promoted, but also allows that "the similarity... to tobacco products is [e-cigs'] chief appeal to those seeking a tobacco alternative..." and agrees that marketers should be allowed to show their product.

3. Medicinal claims may not be made without an MHRA license, but e-cigs may be presented as "an alternative to tobacco." The guideline is cognizant of probable implementation of MHRA medicalisation and some kind of EU-proposed TPD in the next few years, so this one may be subject to change.

4. It must be clear that the product is an e-cigarette (and not a cigarette).

5. Presence (or absence) of nicotine in the product must be made clear.

6. Adverts must not specifically seek to recruit non-smokers.

7. No link with alcohol, gambling, or illicit drugs should be suggested. This is the guideline likely to be opposed by some marketers of e-cigarettes.

8. E-cigs should not be depicted in connection with "activities or locations in which using them would be unsafe or unwise," in particular, driving.

9. Adverts should not associate vaping with youth culture, portray characters likely to have special appeal to under-18s, or portray individuals who are "behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner."

10. Anyone in the advert who is vaping or "playing a significant role" may not appear to be under 25.

11. Adverts should explicitly state that the product is not suitable for minors.

12. CAP will not authorize an advert for media aimed at audiences with more than 25% under-18s.

Furthermore, BCAP will not allow e-cig ads to be run during programmes, or adjacent to programmes, aimed at youth. Feedback from the general public is solicited. Page 23 of the CAP document includes a link to an e-mail address to which comments may be submitted, and also a postal address and telephone number.