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New UK advertising rules for e-cigarettes

09 October 2014

We have today published new advertising rules for e-cigarettes to ensure they continue to be promoted in a responsible way. The new rules add to those already in place and will come into effect on 10 November 2014.

The rules place an emphasis on the protection of young people and ads must avoid containing anything that promotes the use of a tobacco product or that shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light.  The rules were subject to full public consultation and will apply across media. 

The recent increase in the popularity and availability of e-cigarettes has seen a significant growth in advertising for them.  While e-cigarettes have always been allowed to be advertised and have been subject to general rules covering misleading claims, harm, offence and social responsibility, they have not, until now, been subject to product specific rules. 

The consultation on the advertising rules took place amid widespread debate amongst policy makers, health professionals, charities and business about the role and safety of e-cigarettes.  During the consultation we took into account the wide range of views that exist about e-cigarettes and their potential to re-normalise smoking, as well as the case being made for their public health benefits.  With legislation around the promotion of e-cigarettes not coming into effect until 2016, we have moved quickly to establish a responsible framework for advertising in the UK.

In summary, the rules state:

  • Ads must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture
  • People shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25
  • Ads must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear
  • Ads must not encourage non-smokers or non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes
  • Ads must make clear that the product is an e-cigarette and not a tobacco product

Ads on TV and radio will be subject to scheduling restrictions to reduce the chance of e-cigarette advertisements being seen or heard by children. Furthermore, unless manufacturers obtain an authorisation for their product from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, ads for e-cigarettes cannot convey health benefits or claim that they are ‘safer’ or ‘healthier’ than smoking tobacco.

The non-broadcast and broadcast rules have been harmonised.  Whilst ads for e-cigarettes have been able to appear on TV, previously actual depictions of e-cigarettes in those ads were prohibited.  The changes mean that from next month e-cigarettes can be shown, including in use, in ads across UK media, on the condition that the ads comply with the strict new rules.

We will closely monitor the effect of the rules and conduct a formal review after 12 months.

Director of CAP, Shahriar Coupal says: “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”.

Read the Regulatory Statement which includes the new rules as well as our evaluation of the responses to the consultation.

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