Three e-cigarette TV adverts banned

A man smoking an electronic cigarette

A man smoking an electronic cigarette - Credit: PA

Three television ads for e-cigarettes have been banned just weeks after new rules came into effect allowing people to be shown using the devices.

Two ads for Must Have, which trades as VIP Electronic Cigarettes, showed a woman exhaling vapour - or ‘vaping’ - while a voiceover stated: “Find out why 89% of our consumers said they preferred VIP over other brands” and “The great taste of VIP”.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 199 complaints, including concerns from 187 viewers and organisations such as Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), the Association of Directors of Public Health UK (ADPH) and the British Medical Association (BMA).

They were worried that the ads glamorised the smoking of tobacco products through its depiction of the woman and were irresponsible because they were likely to have particular appeal to people aged under 18 and encouraged non-smokers to use e-cigarettes.

Must Have said the ads stated that the product was an e-cigarette, which they believed was sufficient to make clear that it was not a tobacco product that was being promoted.

It said the woman in the ads clearly appeared to be over 25 years of age and was not behaving in an adolescent or juvenile way, and it had advertised around programmes that appealed to an “all adults” audience to reach its target of tobacco smokers and e-cigarette users.

The ASA noted that the product did not resemble a traditional tobacco cigarette and the ads did not use terminology associated with tobacco products, instead referring to ‘e-cigarettes’ and ‘e-liquids’.

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But it said the ads consisted primarily of a close up of a woman’s face as she used the product, while her long dark hair and dark eye make-up gave her a glamorous look and the intimacy of the shot drew particular attention to her mouth and the vapour.

The ASA said: “We considered that the manner in which the vapour was exhaled and the heightened focus on this action created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.

“We also considered that, in combination with the softly spoken voice-over throughout, the woman’s appearance and the manner in which she was shown using the product gave the ads a sultry and glamorous tone.

“Because the ads created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking and presented it, as the central focus of the ads, in a sultry and glamorous way, we considered that they indirectly promoted the use of tobacco products.”

The ASA did not find that the ads were likely to have any particular appeal to people under 18 and said there was no “explicit encouragement” to non-smokers or non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes.

It ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form, adding: “We told VIP Electronic Cigarettes to ensure their ads did not promote the use of tobacco products.”

In a separate ruling, the ASA banned a Vape Nation ad for encouraging ex-smokers to use e-cigarettes.

The television ad for KiK e-cigarettes showed a group of adults using and discussing the devices in an outdoor restaurant, with one man saying: “I used to smoke normal cigarettes, but after I quit, I tried these. I actually prefer them.”

Seven viewers complained that the ad was likely to encourage non-smokers, and particularly former smokers, to use the product.

Vape Nation said the ad was aimed at current smokers and did not sell directly to viewers or encourage non-smokers to take up e-cigarettes.

The ASA said the vast majority of the dialogue positioned the product as one of interest to current smokers, but consumers were likely to understand that the man who said he had quit was therefore a non-smoker who had subsequently taken up using KiK e-cigarettes.

The ASA said: “We considered that the man’s statement could encourage non-smokers to take up using e-cigarettes and we therefore concluded the ad was irresponsible.”

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form and told Vape Nation not to encourage ex-smokers or non-nicotine-users to use e-cigarettes.

New rules published by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which came into effect last month, allow e-cigarettes to be shown in ads across UK media, but campaigns are banned from attempting to tap into youth culture or promote any link with tobacco products.

Ads must not encourage non-smokers to use e-cigarettes, must make clear that the product is an e-cigarette and not a tobacco product and must not contain anything that could be associated in the audience’s mind with a tobacco brand.