The advertising and marketing of E-cigarettes is changing in the UK. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have implemented polices that will allow E-cigarettes to be advertised more freely across all media, but with greater focus on ‘advertising responsibly’. One of the major concerns for CAP is the potential growth in E-cigarette sales to children or young people. In order to combat this, CAP has introduced a set advertising guidelines designed to avoid any future ad campaigns igniting greater interest in potential young vapers. As well as focussing on responsible advertising, CAP have made some very positive changes that will affect how the public view E-cigarettes, read on to find out what’s changed.
Previously, advertising of E-cigarettes has been regulated in a fairly haphazard way based on their similarities in use and appearance to tobacco cigarettes. One CAP spokesman claimed E-cigarettes were previously “caught” by rules written before E-cigarettes existed – because they were held and used like cigarettes. Thankfully, CAP are now beginning to address E-cigarettes as a separate entity to tobacco cigarettes and regulate how they can be advertised far more appropriately.
Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, said: “We’ve moved quickly to put in place appropriate and clear regulation around E-cigarette advertising. While the debate about E-cigarettes continues, our commitment is to make sure they are advertised in a responsible way and that children are protected”.
OK, so what’s changed?
Devices can now appear on the telly!
- Previously E-cigarettes have not been able to appear on television, but, with the new regulation due to be implemented in early November, E-cigarettes will be able to appear on television in the UK. Although E-cigarettes can currently be advertised on television, the actual device cannot be shown.
- There will also no longer be a 9pm watershed for E-cigarette ads, bringing E-cigarettes in line with general watching habits and broadcasting changes.
No health claims without ‘proof’!
- The new rules state that E-cigarettes cannot be advertised as a ‘healthier’ or ‘safer’ alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes will not be able to make any health claims without approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency or MHRA. Equally no claims can be made in adverts that E-cigarettes will help you quit smoking until the MHRA have given it the all clear.
With health claims regulated in this way, it will be interesting to see what angle those marketing and advertising guru’s take in order to promote their product….something to look out for.
Don’t be down with the kids!
- Advertisers must not show anyone who is under the age of 25, or who appears to be under the age of 25, using an Electronic cigarette device, or in a significant role when they are advertising E-cigarettes.
Don’t confuse cigarettes with E-cigarettes!
- Tobacco products and E-cigarettes should remain separate. As advertising Tobacco products is prohibited, E-cigarette advertising must contain:
Nothing which promotes any design, imagery or logo that might associated with a tobacco brand. Equally, ads for E-cigarettes must contain nothing which promotes the use of a tobacco product or shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light…Marketing communications must make clear that the product is an E-cigarette and not a tobacco product.
With the Tobacco Products Directive still potentially looming over E-cigarette companies these rules and regulations are set to be monitored by CAP again after 1 year.
It’s not as if there has been free reign on advertising prior to CAP’s latest ruling, there have been a number of cases where E-cigarette companies have had their adverts withdrawn.
Two examples of E-cigarette ads that have been banned previously are from Vype and E-Lites. These two ads are great examples of what CAP would look to ensure does not creep its way into the advertising of E-cigarettes.
The ad from Vype was banned for a couple of key reasons. Complainants argued that the ad in-avertedly promotes smoking. The imagery of a woman engulfed in smoke and Vype’s strapline of -‘pure satisfaction for smokers’ sparked a number of complaints. However, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banned the ad at the time because they felt it portrayed E-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking rather than an alternative to smoking. Something CAP will be monitoring closely with their new regulations.
Rather unsurprisingly this E-Lites ad was banned too…watch it and you’ll soon see why!
What’s the response to CAPS rules?
As you would imagine the response to these new regulations has been varied depending on your view of E-cigarettes and their safety. Many large E-cigarette companies have welcomed the changes but opposition to E-cigarettes have staunchly opposed what they see as dangerous relaxations in advertising policy.
Tom Pruen, chief scientific officer for trade body Ecita, tweeted in a personal capacity:
“ECITA is very pleased with @CAP_UK rules on ecig advertising. Allows sensible & factual advertising of these products, distinct from tobacco.”
Totally Wicked – one of the UK’s biggest suppliers of E-Liquids and devices states:
“Totally Wicked welcomes new rules published by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) for the advertising of electronic cigarettes in the UK. These new rules demonstrate that it is possible to develop robust yet proportionate regulation that will still allow the advertising and marketing of this transformational product.”
Opposition to CAP’s new guidelines fear that the greater exposure of E-cigarettes may actually help to grow the far more harmful tobacco industry. Many critics are concerned that increased visibility of E-cigarettes across the media, will undermine the previously hard-won tobacco control policies. A recent report commissioned by Cancer Research UK claims that there is evidence that young people, who have always been the key to the long-term viability of the tobacco industry, may be being pulled in to the E-cigarette market.
These opponents to the new guidelines claim that because many E-cigarettes are similar in appearance to normal cigarettes, and the process of inhaling is essentially the same, advertising them more freely will actually help to increase the numbers of tobacco smokers. One marketing expert claims that E-cigarettes are similar to Diet Coke or de-caffeinated coffee, in that they are a healthy variant of a more detrimental alternative. The emergence of Diet Coke or de-caf coffee has contributed towards bolstering the reputation, exposure and sales of their parent product. With this in mind he claims that E-cigarettes are actually defined and shaped by smoking. Due to their similarities, the greater exposure may actually end up re-enforcing their parent product rather than replacing them.
So, are the new rules good for vapers?
The move to separate the regulation of E-cigarettes from traditional tobacco product regulation is a sign of real progress and forward thinking. Regulating E-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco cigarettes, as had been done previously, is unreasonable when you consider the public health effects of the two products. The two are incomparable when it comes to health and should be regulated separately, with the severity of regulation based on the risks of the product. The new regulations are pretty common sense based and should help to grow the E-cigarette industry.
However, it will be very important that these new rules are not manipulated by tobacco companies to promote products in a way that also promotes cigarettes. Tobacco companies have already heavily invested in E-cigarettes and all over the world they are marketing them in the same way that they did with tobacco cigarettes before they were banned. E-cigarette companies backed by tobacco manufacturers are now sponsoring race cars, appearing in bus stop ads and gaining more TV airtime. One of the largest cigarette manufacturers, BAT, who launched E-cigarette company Vype, were responsible for the banned ad shown above. With huge advertising and marketing budgets they’ll be doing their best to subtly market E-cigs in a way that won’t diminish the popularity of smoking. The involvement of these huge tobacco heavyweights will need to be monitored closely now the new regulations are in place to ensure that E-cigarettes are being marketed in a responsible way.
So, it’s up to you the vaper to be aware of who your provider is and what they stand for. Next time you watch some advertising just look a bit closer at what the E-cig supplier is actually trying to sell you.