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UK TV Ecig Advertising


    A very brief primer on the UK television ecig advertising situation at November 2014, with references for further research.
- TV adverts are allowed, because ecigs are not a tobacco product
- The product can be shown in use
- No health claims of any kind can be made
- Adverts must not be targeted at youth


Ecig adverts have always been allowed on UK TV as they are a normal consumer product, not a tobacco product. There were many restrictions imposed, though: for example, the product could not be seen in use, to remove any confusion with smoking.

In early October [BBC link at foot] CAP, the NGO that oversees UK advertising [1] announced after a consultation and policy development process, that from November 15th 2014:

  • Ecig advertising will continue to be allowed, including on TV, as they are not a tobacco product;
  • Ecigs can now be shown in use;
  • Advertising must not be aimed at youth, and there are several specific rules that address this;
  • No health claims can be made;
  • Adverts are not targeted at youth;
  • There are additional restrictions and/or advisories;
  • The situation will be reviewed again in one year.

The authority ruled that, despite intense lobbying by various other interests, there was no evidence that ecigs cause harm, or that they are anything other than a regular consumer product, since they don't contain tobacco and don't produce any smoke.

Perhaps the decision partly rests on the fact that if they restrict ecig advertising unjustifiably, with no evidence of any potential for harm, then they will also have to restrict coffee, tea, and chocolate advertising as well; since these all contain active alkaloids, they would presumably have the same sort of risks - if any.

UK Government

An overseas enquirer mentioned that it had been reported in their country that UK ecig TV ads had received government support. It should be noted that the government have never endorsed ecig ads, or spoken against them. It is not government policy to endorse or criticise advertising. Probably what was being referred to was that the NGO/s that oversee advertising here have permitted TV ads in (a) the absence of any evidence that ecig use is smoking; (b) the absence of any evidence that there is any potential for harm to the smokers who switch to them, or others; and (c) until a consultation and decision-making process could be completed.


Everyone everywhere has an agenda. Anywhere that money is involved in any transaction related to the issue or where salaries are paid as a result of the existence of the issue, the agenda will be commercial. In other words, if it concerns a commercial activity in some way, and/or people's jobs depend on it in some way, then the agenda has a financial component in the form of an economic (i.e. large-scale) and personal (i.e. wages and job security) factor; and it is likely to be the most important factor. People don't vote to remove their job.

We can see this in both sides of the ecig advertising argument: the anti-ecig advertising voices are paid by the smoking economy, and the pro-advert voices (including of course the advertising governance authorities) are paid by sales that depend on advertising for the ecig trade, which is actively engaged in destroying the smoking economy [2].

You will see here that I allocate a commercial agenda to everyone, which is simply fair, considering that everyone involved in the argument at policy level - without exception - has a commercial motive. The argument is slightly swayed by the size of the funds on each side, which are enormously beneficial to the anti ecig advertising side; we might therefore expect that, one way or another, UK ecig advertising (especially TV ads) will eventually be switched off [4]. Money talks.

Any voice heard speaking against ecigs or the advertising of ecigs is almost certainly dependent on the smoking economy in some way. Otherwise, they would not be speaking against the promotion of a new, relatively harmless and disruptive technology that will destroy smoking when nothing other than THR products has even the remotest chance of achieving this.

You need only look as far as Sweden to see what can be accomplished when smoking is not efficiently protected by its economic beneficiaries: Sweden will have a male smoking prevalence of just 5% by 2016, with a parallel fall in smoking-related mortality and morbidity, due to Snus uptake. THR product users, clinically-speaking, become non-smokers. This is why there is such an outcry against ecig advertising: there will be significant job losses as a result of increased ecig sales, especially (in time) in any health-related industry; and equally in its front groups, which will be de-funded in parallel with the reduction in smoking and smoking-generated disease.

The future looks like this: smoking reduced by ecigs = disease reduced = funding reduced (obviously) for those who are paid from the profits from disease treatments. In the UK, those are the people who oppose ecig advertising.


[1] The CAP writes and maintains UK advertising rules, which are enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority.

See: BBC: %20consultation/Regulatory%20Statement.ashx %20consultation/Evaluation%20of%20responses.ashx

[2] The 'smoking economy' is that section of the UK economy generated by and dependent on smoking, and those people who ultimately depend on cigarette smoking for their job.

It comprises, in order of size of revenue:
- The UK government, which earns / saves about 2% of GDP via smoking.
- The pharmaceutical industry, which earns more from smoking in the UK than the tobacco industry does.
- The cigarette industry (that part of the tobacco industry that produces cigarettes and smoking tobacco, i.e. almost all of it, in the UK) [3].
- The part of the retail and transport sectors dependent wholly or partly on tobacco sales.

And the NGOs and individuals who benefit from these revenues:
- All those paid by the above and whose jobs depend wholly or partly on smoking.
- Government staff whose jobs are funded by any of the above.
- The Public Health industry, whose tobacco control sector depends entirely on smoking for its existence (and for its highly-paid jobs: in the USA, a tobacco control industry CEO can earn over $1 million a year).

The smoking economy is worth at least $1 trillion per year. Ecigs will eventually destroy more than 50% of those revenues, and destroy >50% of those industries' smoking-related sectors, and destroy >50% of those jobs. No wonder there is resistance to ecig TV adverts.

[3] It is wrong to ascribe anything/everything to 'the tobacco industry' since in some places, such as Sweden, they have destroyed smoking and thus contributed massively to public health gains; more, in fact, than anyone anywhere else in the world in the last few years. Sweden is the world leader in reducing smoking prevalence, and thus has a smoking-related mortality lower than any other developed country by a wide margin; this was entirely driven by the tobacco industry itself - specifically, the Snus producers. It is important to note that no one else at all had a hand in it, especially the tobacco control industry, who opposed it at every stage and still do.

[4] Especially if the EU TPD Article 20 goes unchallenged at law: most ecig advertising will be shut down.



created 2014-10-16