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​Could a Case Be Made for Halting the TV Ban on E Cigarette Ads?

11th Dec 2017

Studies have found that there may be a case for increasing the amount of e cigarette advertising on television, as opposed to halting it as some have called for. The report shows that boosting e cigarette advertising could have a knock-on effect on decreasing the number of people smoking traditional cigarettes.

Tobacco cigarette advertising has been banned since the 1970's on both radio and television in America. E cigarettes however have been allowed across all media since 2007, subject to restrictions of course. This new study from Kellogg Insight reports that the more advertising featuring e cigarettes there is, the less likely people are to buy tobacco cigarettes.

There are many opinions about whether e cigarette advertising should be subject to the same rules as tobacco advertising, which given current legislation would mean pretty much cutting out all visual and audio advertising, not to mention restrictions on print advertising. There are, thankfully, many more who see that e cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes are very different. While both deliver nicotine (in varying amounts as the e liquids in e cigarettes sport strengths tapering down to zero nicotine) that is the only similarity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have classified a number of the chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes as being both toxic (worrying given that people burn cigarettes and inhale these chemicals directly!) but also as being potentially cancer causing. E cigarettes on the flipside have a very small number of ingredients, none of which have any negative classification. In addition to this, e liquids are heated to produce a flavoured vapour so with vaping there is no burning off of a material and inhaling the smoke.

It’s clear to see why vaping is being recognised as being the cleaner alternative, and certainly the healthier one. Many health organisations around the world, and certainly here in the UK have and continue to advocate for the use of e cigarettes as a valid tobacco cigarette alternative, recognising them both as valid cessation devices, offering support to help smokers quit, but also enabling those who enjoy the habit to continue with a new, healthier hobby.

This study, the first of its kind, looking at the impact of e cigarette and vaping-related advertising has shown that there is a direct link between vaping ads and a decrease in the sales of e cigarettes, according to Anna Tuchman, the assistant professor of marketing from Kellogg Insights. The assumption is that people are seeing e cigarettes, hearing more about their benefits and then deciding that switching over to vaping is the better, and often more affordable option.

Tuchman adds that legislation makers should bear in mind these results when it comes to deciding upon the future fate of e cigarette advertising. The concern is that by banning it, or putting further restrictions on the e cigarette advertising, an unwanted side effect may result. The worry is that cutting vaping advertisement may mean missing out on helping to decrease the numbers of people smoking significantly. Given that smoking costs health services a vast amount of money, as well as of course the personal cost, it would be wise to consider the implications of a vaping ad ban carefully.

Here in the UK vaping has taken off, becoming very popular in a relatively short space of time. There are many studies which show that the popularity of vaping has been partially (if not wholly in some cases) been responsible for cutting the number of people smoking significantly. Vaping in the US has been slower to catch on however from 2011 the market picked up considerably, alongside a great awareness for many about the benefits of vaping versus the damaging effect of tobacco smoking. The transition from one to another has been so profound in recent years that tobacco companies themselves have been ploughing money into producing their own e cigarettes.

While the concern remains that vaping advertising will encourage people to vaping, teens especially, this is unlikely, given the availability of e cigarettes to minors (they adhere to the same regulation age-wise as tobacco cigarettes) and the fact that there is no evidence to support this. Besides, any continued e cigarette advertising will be subject to stringent rules around who retailers and manufacturers may target and of course making it seem attractive especially to young people will be prohibited.

What do you think? Would banning e cigarette advertising serve any purpose other than removing a healthier alternative and missing an opportunity to cut the number of people smoking? 

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