The revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) by the European Union (EU) came into full effect earlier this year (May 2016). Whilst the infamous directive included many updates on the eagerly anticipated regulation of tobacco products, it also provided extensive coverage to e-cigarettes. Despite being only in its infancy, the EU set out various new regulations specifically for e-cigarettes. E-cigarette advertising was one aspect that was given particular attention to. TPD significantly changed and introduced rules around advertising e-cigarettes.

The Implications

The TPD has rigorously overhauled how e-cigarettes can be advertised.

Under the TPD, e-cigarettes and e-liquids are legally prohibited from being directly or indirectly advertised on:

–    Broadcast and on-demand TV as advertising, sponsorship or product placement

–    Radio as advertising or sponsorship

–    Newspapers, magazines, periodicals and other similar publications

–    Internet display advertising

–    Commercial email and text message advertising

–    Companies (e-cigarette) own website

–    Other/third-party retailer websites

Despite the exclusion of numerous advertising avenues, e-cigarettes and e-liquids can be advertised on:

–    Trade publications and non-EU publications

–    Blogs and Tweets (on Twitter)

–    E-cigarette trade press and trade to trade communication

–    Cinemas

–    Fax

–    Outdoor posters

–    Leaflets

–    Posters on the side of buses

–    Direct hard copy mail

Rather than advertise, e-cigarettes companies are permitted and have the opportunity to provide factual information about products as well as produce genuine ‘how to’ videos. Likewise, retailer sites have been permitted to give factual information about products and sales lists (if they wish to do so).

It is important to remember when producing any videos, e-cigarette companies and retailers alike, present information in a non-promotional way. This means avoiding:

–    Focusing on any price promotions

–    Using celebrity endorsements

–    Applying visuals and images that are not in relation to the product

–    Comparing and contrasting information with other e-cigarette products or the general market


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Other Key Considerations

Being Socially Responsible

Advertising should not be conducted in such a way that it encourages non-smokers to try and use e-cigarettes. Additionally, advertising content should not feature anyone who is either or appears to be under the age of 25. Similarly, any advertising activates should not be directed at anyone under the age of 18. This means not using celebrities or role models that appeal to youth culture and any mediums whose audience is more than 25% under 18.


Distinguishing Between E-Cigarette and Tobacco Products

E-cigarette advertisements should not contain within them anything which promotes or shows the use of tobacco products in a positive manner. Any designs, logos and imagery associated with tobacco brands is also restricted. Also e-cigarettes should not be confused for any tobacco products therefore there needs to be a concise and clear distinction.


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Avoid Making Unauthorised Claims

Unless it is authorized by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), advertisements cannot make health or medical claims. Claims such as e-cigarettes are healthier or considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco-based cigarettes. Advertisements also cannot have any endorsements or recommendations from health professionals. Moreover, advertisements should not imply, claim or position e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device (unless authorized by MHRA for cessation purposes).


Photo credit: LeoLites 


The provision of the TPD has undoubtedly made the scope for advertising e-cigarettes limited. As with any regulation, it is imperative be fully compliant and transparent. This means ensuring content in advertising is not only constantly thoughtful and creative but also whole-heartedly respectful of regulation in all phases (creation, design and execution).

Chris Polenski
Chris Polenski