Pharmacists running smoking cessation services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will still be able to promote the option of e-cigarettes under new European advertising rules coming into force in 2016.
Promotion of the products will be interpreted as a public health message under the European Union (EU) directive and will fall outside the advertising clampdown that applies from May 2016, according to the Department of Health (DH).
The proposal to allow the public health promotion of the products comes in guidance published by the UK government in response to how it plans to implement the EU directive.
The DH says it is taking a “minimal approach” to implementation of the directive. In Scotland, the directive and its implication for domestic advertising, is being considered as part of its Health (Tobacco, Nicotine, etc. and Care) (Scotland) Bill.
The DH guidance proposes a ban on advertisements for e-cigarettes and refill containers on television, radio, the internet, email, newspapers and magazines, as well as restrictions on e-cigarette company sponsorship of events. The ban would not apply to point of sale adverts.
“These [EU] restrictions are much more limited than those which apply to tobacco advertising, where all forms of advertising and sponsorship by tobacco companies are prohibited,” says the DH. “The proposed rules would not prevent public health campaigns or local stop smoking services messaging aimed at helping people make the switch from tobacco to e-cigarette use.”
The guidance comes three weeks after the UK’s drug safety regulator approved the electronic inhaler e-Voke as a smoking cessation aid.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) points out that e-Voke uses the same doses of nicotine as other nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) and that “the benefits and risks are the same as other NRT products”.
The e-Voke is the second product that looks like a cigarette to receive a marketing authorisation (the Voke Inhaler was licensed in September 2015), but it is the first product that electronically produces a vapour containing nicotine for inhalation, “and thus would be considered a true e-cigarette”, says a spokesperson for the MHRA.