E-cigarette TV and radio ads banned

Cigarettes in ashtrayAn advert for an electronic cigarette has been banned for not making it clear that the product contains nicotine.

The ban, the first time the regulator has ruled against a TV ad for e-cigarettes, applies to the television and radio ads of the campaign for E-Lites and follows 65 complaints that they were irresponsible and normalised smoking.
The radio ad featured scenes of a wedding, an award ceremony and the birth of a child and someone asking: "Where's Dave?" followed by a voice-over saying: "What are you missing when you pop out for a cigarette? By switching to E-Lites you can legally smoke indoors with no tobacco, no smell and around 70% less cost."

The television ad showed a family admiring an infant, who suddenly began performing dance moves from the music video for the song Gangnam Style before a male family member returned from smoking outside and on-screen text stated: "E-Lites. What are you missing?"

One complainant objected to the suggestion that one of the characters could have used the product in a maternity ward, while Smokefree South West and 41 others said the ad promoted a nicotine-based product and encouraged and normalised smoking or the use of E-Lites.

Another five challenged whether the television ad was offensive because it used a baby to promote a smoking-related product and three believed that it would be of particular interest to children but breached the advertising code by referring to smoking.

The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) believed the radio version targeted existing smokers by informing them that E-Lites, a product legally allowed to be advertised on radio, could be used indoors, lacked odour and was cheaper in price than traditional cigarettes.

The RACC said it did not believe that the ad promoted nicotine, which was not mentioned, or encouraged or normalised traditional smoking, and was unlikely to encourage non-smokers to start using the product.

Zandera, the makers of E-Lites, said there were no legal or best practice guidelines to display product ingredients in the ads themselves, but the TV ad did show a website address where further information could be found on the product and its ingredients.

Zandera said that although the use of a comic 'Gangnam Style' dancing baby might have been of interest to some children, the absence of any direct references to smoking or electronic cigarettes meant that children were unable to make any connection between the ad and smoking.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) noted that e-cigarettes were a relatively new product, adding that it was "important that such ads made the nature of the product being advertised clear".

It said whether or not the product contained nicotine was "material information that needed to be included in the ads in order to avoid the likelihood of misleading consumers".

It added: "We considered that a dancing baby was likely to be very attractive to a broad range of children for whom the baby and the dance moves would both be engaging.

"We recognised that for younger children the reference to smoking was unlikely to be noticed or understood, but for older children, in particular teenagers, the inference would be clear.

"Because we considered that the content of the ad would be of particular interest to children and also referred to smoking, we concluded that the ad breached the code."

The ASA ruled that the radio and television ads must not be broadcast again in their current form, adding: "We told Zandera to ensure that their broadcast ads make clear whether or not E-Lites contain nicotine."
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