Celebrity endorsements are attracting young people to use e-cigarettes, a report commissioned by Cancer Research UK has found.
Researchers analysed more than 1,000 pieces of marketing collected over 13 months. Marketing techniques such as online promotions, competitions and mobile phone apps were likely to appeal to young people, they concluded.
Although the charity does not want e-cigarettes to be banned, as it believes they have potential to help smokers quit, Cancer Research UK has called for children to be protected from the “unregulated marketing” of these products.
Without clear regulation on how e-cigarettes can be marketed, manufacturers are advertising on TV, billboards, buses, in computer games and in magazines, as well as using colourful and innovative packaging, with flavours that appeal to young people.
Professor Gerard Hastings, report co-author from the University of Stirling said that e-cigarettes are probably much safer than conventional cigarettes and that if smokers switch to them many lives could be saved.
However, he added: “But the market is looking to make money, not improve public health, and this is creating many dangers. The fact that multinational tobacco companies are moving in on this market is of particular concern - from past experience we know they are deceitful, determined and deeply detrimental to public health.”
There will be a public consultation on e-cigarette marketing in 2014 by the Committees of Advertising practice to decide what level of advertising controls are needed.
Dr Marisa de Andrade, report author said: “E-cigarette marketing has grown exponentially in the UK over the last 18 months. The tobacco industry’s increasing interest in this market and attempts to engage with policy makers and the public health community are a major concern.
“We need to ensure these ‘next generation products’ do not usher in the next generation of smokers – an e-cigarette advert recently appeared in an iPad children's game. These are worrying developments and swift action is needed.”