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expert reaction to study investigating the impact of advertising sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes on young people vaping

A study in Tobacco Control has examined the impact of advertising on a group of secondary school children in England, and the researchers report that exposure to e-cigarette adverts didn’t increase the appeal of e-cigarettes or tobacco smoking, or susceptibility to tobacco smoking, nor did it reduce the perceived harm of smoking.

All our previous output on this subject can be seen here. The SMC also produced a Factsheet on e-cigarettes.


An MHRA spokesperson said:

“There are already tight rules on the advertising of medicines in the UK ensuring they are not directed at children and those for electronic cigarettes will be strengthened and clarified later in the year.

“Where people do breach the rules on advertising of medicines we will take action to prevent further breaches of the rules to ensure people are protected from inappropriate promotional material.”


Prof. Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling; Deputy Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies; Chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention, Cancer Research UK, said:

“Assessing how young people respond to the promotion of electronic cigarettes is useful in a context where new age of sale laws prohibit access but existing marketing may prompt interest in e-cigarettes. This modest study adds to existing literature on how youth perceive e-cigarettes. It found a small but significant difference in the appeal of e-cigarette adverts with and without flavours and interest in buying e-cigarettes.

“However, overall the young people in this study still had negative views about both appeal and purchase. We can’t assume, therefore, that advertisements of flavoured e-cigarettes will result in young people trying to buy these products. More importantly, the study found no evidence that e-cigarette adverts increase the appeal of tobacco smoking for young people. This should provide reassurance to those who say that e-cigarette advertising will result in a new generation of tobacco smokers. Forthcoming European legislation will prohibit the types of adverts tested in this study in the UK from May 2016. It is important that we continue to monitor trends in e-cigarette use in young people following the introduction of this legislation.”


Prof Kevin Fenton, PHE National Director of Health & Wellbeing, said:

“Like the Study’s authors, PHE is cautiously optimistic from the results that e-cigarette advertising doesn’t make smoking tobacco more attractive. While 1 in 10 young people in the UK say that they have ever tried an e-cigarette, regular use is almost entirely confined to those who already smoked.

“The UK already has some of the strongest regulations on e-cigarette advertising, and these will be further tightened by new European regulations being introduced in May. Responsible e-cigarette marketing needs to recruit adults away from smoking and in the UK it has been effective in doing this. And there is no evidence that advertising has encouraged young people to take up regular vaping.

“It’s important we recognise that flavoured e-cigarettes can appeal to adults as an alternative to smoking.

“In the UK we see very little evidence of E-cigarette use among children who haven’t previously smoked and this is partly due to the tight controls we already have on e-cigarette advertising.”


Impact of advertisements promoting candy-like flavoured e-cigarettes on appeal of tobacco smoking amongst children: an experimental study’ by M. Vasiljevic et al. published in Tobacco Control on Monday 18th January. 


Declared interests

Prof. Linda Bauld: No conflicts of interest

Prof. Kevin Fenton: No conflicts of interest

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