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E-cigarettes are increasingly popular in the UK.  An e-cigarette is a battery operated device that simulates a lit cigarette. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco but operate by heating nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals into a vapour that is then inhaled (some e-cigarettes do not contain nicotine).

The rapid growth in the availability and purchase of e-cigarettes has led to a significant increase in advertising for them. The market has moved quickly; a December 2013 article in the British Medical Journal highlighted a growth in the UK spend on e-cigarette promotion from £1.7 million in 2010 to £13.1 million in 2012.

On 20 May 2016, the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (“the Tobacco Regulations”) implemented the Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) into UK law.  Amongst many other things, the Directive (Article 20) affects how e-cigarette products may be advertised. There are now significant prohibitions on advertisements for nicotine-containing e-cigarette products sold as consumer goods (i.e. they are not licensed with the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) as a medicinal product).

All advertisements in the UK are regulated by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). The ASA published a consultation in September 2016 in which it sought views on how best to reflect the Tobacco Regulations 2016 in the British Advertising Codes.  The consultation closed on 31 October 2016. New rules on the advertising of e-cigarettes are now contained in both the non-broadcast and broadcast advertising codes.

This Commons briefing paper provides information about the advertising of e-cigarettes in the UK. Specifically, it considers the implementation and enforcement of the Tobacco Regulations 2016 and the role of the ASA.  

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