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Leading Scots academic slams “harmful” e-cig marketing tactics

A LEADING Scots health academic has slammed “harmful” e-cigarette marketing tactics.

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at Stirling University, has said there is “cause for concern” in the way companies are pushing their products.

The professor, who is also deputy director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, warns that there are also “no controls” when it comes to alcohol adverts in the UK.

Professor Bauld has called for tighter marketing controls for e-cigarettes

And she is now calling for tighter regulations across the advertising industry.

Currently, e-cigarette companies are allowed to advertise their products within a regulatory framework, meaning they cannot make smoking cessation claims or target youngsters.

But Professor Bauld suggests there is still reason to be wary.

“I’d say that the evidence of marketing being targeted at children is mixed, but there’s definitely a lot of it,” she said.

“It’s a cause for concern and we need marketing regulations. The Advertising Standards Authority has a role to protect the public against harmful advertising.

“They brought in regulations last year to allow the public to complain about e-cigarette adverts. There have been a number of complaints and two adverts were forced to be withdrawn, so we do have some controls in place.”

However, she warned that the alcohol industry may be bending the rules when it comes to advertising.

She said: “We have the same for alcohol adverts and it doesn’t make a difference – they do all the things they aren’t supposed to do.

Experts are unsure about the long-term health risks of using e-cigarettes

“We need to crack down on the marketing of alcohol as there are no controls at all in Scotland and it’s so prevalent all across our society.”

New proposals may lead to e-cigarette adverts only being shown at the point of sale – in the shops where they can be bought.

Professor Bauld added: “I have a mixed view about it. I think you need some marketing of e-cigarettes to encourage the adults who want to stop smoking to try it.

“It’s hard to know what to do – whether we take it all away or keep it going in order to aid those wanting to stop smoking.

“I’m in favour of e-cigarettes as a quitting tool for current smokers.”

She also aired her concerns about e-cigarette companies being “bought up” by tobacco giants.

“One of the issues for us is that e-cigarette companies have been increasingly bought up by the tobacco industry,” she said.

“Ideally they should be distributed by independent companies as the objective of the tobacco industry is to keep people smoking . We want to try and keep a lid on some of the tobacco companies’ involvement.”

There are also concerns about the way alcohol is advertised

John Watson, deputy chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, agreed that the marketing is showing a disturbing trend.

“We’re concerned at some of the marketing we’ve seen around e-cigarettes,” he said.

“It’s hard to walk down the street without seeing adverts and some of them are reminiscent to old tobacco adverts.

“We should restrict marketing that’s going to encourage young people to smoke but there is also the potential to help current smokers stop.”

Experts are yet to conclusively determine the health risks of e-cigarettes, which have helped some smokers quit but still contain the highly addictive substance nicotine.

A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said: “The UK advertising rules require e-cigarette ads to be responsible with a particular emphasis placed on protecting young people and non-smokers.

“The ASA will not hesitate to take action against any ad that breaks the rules and if an e-cigarette ad encouraged young people to try vaping it would be banned.

“Similarly, the UK alcohol advertising rules are robust with the strict controls applying equally to Scottish media.

“The evidence to date suggests that the current rules are a proportionate and reasonable response to concerns about the potential for alcohol advertising to encourage irresponsible consumption or under-age drinking.

“If anyone has concerns about ads for these products then they should lodge a complaint with us so that we can ensure the rules are being followed.”

Alternative tobacco products pose a new challenge in the war against tobacco

The increasing use of alternative tobacco products, such as water pipes and e-cigarettes, by children under the age of 18 is a burgeoning public health crisis, researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center write in a commentary in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Alternative tobacco products represent a new challenge in the 75-year-old war against tobacco,” says commentary co-author Michael Weitzman, MD, a professor of Pediatrics and of Environmental Medicine at NYU Langone. “With the increasing numbers of young adults using alternative tobacco products, we have every reason to be concerned.”

In “Alternative Tobacco Products as a Second Front in the War on Tobacco,” Dr. Weitzman and Stephen M. Amrock, MD, a former NYU Langone medical student who is now an intern in internal medicine at the University of Oregon, highlight research on the use of alternative tobacco products by young adults published earlier this year in JAMA Pediatrics by Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

That paper reported the results of a longitudinal study of 1596 young adults ranging in age from 15 to 23, including 1048 who had never smoked prior to the study. The study authors showed that use of water pipes, also known as
hookahs, and other alternative tobacco products is associated with a 2.5 times increase in later cigarette use.

“The findings in the JAMA Pediatrics paper corroborate what many of us in the public health field are tremendously worried about,” says Dr. Weitzman.

Public health specialists consider cigarette smoking to be a pediatric disease since nine out of 10 adult smokers started smoking as children. Although cigarette use overall has decreased by 33 percent in the past decade in the United States, the use of alternative tobacco products such as hookahs has increased an alarming 123 percent, with nearly 20 percent of high school seniors smoking hookahs. Dr. Weitzman says this increase can be attributed, in part, to a general unawareness of the dangers of alternative tobacco products by the public, the medical community, and the media.

There is a misperception that alternative tobacco products are safer than cigarettes, but the evidence says otherwise. “Other researchers have demonstrated that a typical 45 minute hookah session is equivalent to smoking as many as five packs of cigarettes,” Dr. Weitzman says. In a study published last year in the journal Tobacco Control, Dr. Weitzman and colleagues discovered potentially hazardous levels of second hand smoke and other air pollutants, as well as evidence of nicotine, in New York City hookah bars. And water pipes in particular, Dr. Weitzman says, “are a terrible mechanism for spreading infectious diseases.”

The increasing popularity of alternative tobacco products threatens to undermine the gains seen in the last several years with the decline in cigarette use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposes extending its tobacco authority to additional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and hookahs, not already under the FDA’s authority. Dr. Weitzman argues that the same tactics used to decrease cigarette smoking in the United States–taxation, education, and restrictions on advertising and sales to minors–need to be applied to alternative tobacco products. And, he says, more research needs to be done to determine what is being burned and inhaled with these products.

“Nicotine is the most addictive substance,” Dr. Weitzman says. “The use of alternative tobacco products by children can be the beginning of an addiction that can lead to later cigarette use. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide, causing more deaths than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined.”


NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine