Anti-smoking campaigners in the UK have accused TV advertisements which show e-cigarette use for the first time of “sexualising” vaping.
The ads for VIP e-cigarettes, which feature a woman exhaling vapour, will debut tonight during a break in ITV1’s Grantchester following a change in the law.
But campaign groups have said the tobacco-free gadgets should not be aimed at a general audience and questioned whether new advertising rules are fit for purpose.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-smoking charity ASH, said: “Vaping is safer than smoking but it’s not harmless and e-cigarettes should only be promoted to smokers.
“VIP are clearly trying to create media controversy over their advertising on the assumption that any publicity is good publicity.
“They’re hyping the fact that their ad makes it look like someone is smoking in a TV ad, which has been prohibited for many years.
“But they’re missing the point as far as ASH is concerned.
“These ads sexualise e-cigarette use and do not make clear that these products are not for a general audience but are aimed at smokers.
“ASH doesn’t see how these ads conform to the new advertising rules and if they do, then we are seriously concerned that the rules are not fit for purpose.
“Responsible advertising of e-cigarettes has its place, but this isn’t what we’d call responsible advertising.”
Two versions of the ad – a 10-second cut and a 20-second cut – will run after the watershed over a period of five weeks.
They can be broadcast following a legal change from the Advertising Standards Authority which comes into effect today.
It is not the first time VIP’s TV campaigns have sparked controversy – its first ad, broadcast last December, was also criticised.
Dave Levin, co-founder of VIP, said the new campaign would mark the first time in almost 50 years that TV audiences see someone exhale what appears to be cigarette smoke.
“We aren’t afraid to provoke a debate about e-cigarettes,” Mr Levin said.
“They are part of our society and we’re offering our customers a healthier alternative to smoking.
“Recently, two separate papers in the UK have accused the World Health Organisation of exaggerating the dangers posed by e-cigarettes.
“One concluded that for every million smokers in the United Kingdom who turned to e-cigarettes, 6,000 premature deaths would be prevented each year – which would have a huge impact on public health, let alone NHS budgets.”