The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned three television adverts for electronic smoking products after receiving over 200 complaints. The ban on these adverts comes only a few weeks after the law was first changed to allow adverts where people use e-smoking products to be shown on television.
E-smoking or “vaping” is billed as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. Instead of smoke, a vapour is produced which often contains a flavouring. Frequently, this is a tobacco flavouring in order to provide the closest experience possible to smoking. E-liquids, which are used to produce the vapour, are available without nicotine or with various concentrations. As a tool to give up smoking, this allows smokers to enjoy an experience that is very close to smoking a cigarette but lacks many or all of the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. By using progressively weaker nicotine concentrations, many smokers aim to wean themselves off the experience entirely.
However, e-cigarettes are not entirely uncontroversial. Though they seemingly lack the health risks associated with smoking, they still look and are used much like a traditional cigarette. This has led to concerns that such devices could glamorise or normalise smoking. This has, until recently, meant that the use of such products could not be advertised on TV, and has even led to some places such as Wales considering a ban on the public use of these products.
However, their apparent lack of real health risks and value as a tool to help smokers quit has led electronic smoking devices to get their fair share of praise as well, and since November manufacturers have been allowed to advertise their use on television. However, there are still some strict rules that must be followed. These adverts must not encourage non-smokers to take up electronic smoking, and they must not target young people. Neither must the adverts be seen to promote tobacco use.
The ASA decided that the three banned adverts fell afoul of these rules. One of them, an advert produced for Vape Nation, was claimed to be encouraging non-smokers to use electronic smoking products. The advert featured a man claiming to have taken up e-smoking after quitting cigarettes, rather than as a tool to quit, leading to concerns that the advert would encourage non- and former smokers to try e-smoking.
The other two adverts, both promoting the VIP e-cigarette brand, were held to be glamorising tobacco use. They showed a woman exhaling a cloud of vapour – something which is visually extremely similar to traditional smoking.