Brexit means a number of brands and businesses operating within the e-cigarette market now have a chance for recent EU decisions to be reviewed. We are hoping Britain’s powers-that-be will take a more realistic view of this category, particularly given that forecasts say that by 2020 sales of e-cigarettes worldwide will overtake sales of tobacco cigarettes.
From the start, the marketing of e-cigarette products has been fraught with confusion and regulation change. VIP was the first brand to screen a TV advert for e-cigarettes, causing outrage among some health campaigners who felt it ‘glamorised’ smoking, despite the ad showing a woman exhaling e-cigarette vapour.
While this attention was actually good for the brand, and great for us as its agency, it increased scrutiny in terms of what brands could and couldn’t depict in ads, and new regulations came in.
But all this ‘control’ has done is lead to confusion among the estimated three million consumers now vaping and, we believe, to a certain extent the decision makers. From the start, there has been no clear information or consistent messaging about the safety or otherwise of these products - and the latest EU regulations have made this worse.
If an e-cigarette has zero nicotine, then it’s not regulated by the tobacco products directive (TPD) at all. However, if it has more than 20mg/ml of nicotine, under the new rules it will need to meet medical standards and be medicinally licenced - which means it will be treated like an over-the-counter drug. E-cigs regulated by the TPD, but that have not been licenced as a medicine, will need to carry a health warning covering 30% of the packaging.
Compliance is costly. With each licence costing in excess of £2m it’s a non-starter for smaller brands. So a top-heavy category emerges, retailers’ margin erodes and the price point rises.
All we ask is for consistency and evidence so informed choices can be made. E-cigs can be useful in encouraging smokers to quit and are healthier than smoking. Banning advertising has hampered the industry’s capability to recruit smokers to the vaping cause. Surely it’s time for a post-Brexit Britain to review this.
Andy Whitmore is co-founder of 438 Marketing