Scotland’s government is to launch a consultation over plans to regulate advertising and marketing of e-cigarettes more tightly than in the rest of the UK.
As the ruling Scottish National Party exercises its right to regulate differently from the Westminster government, it plans to bring in legislation to increase the restrictions on e-cig advertising and marketing beyond those prescribed in the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and implemented in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The devolved government in Edinburgh has invited industry bodies to meet to discuss the proposals on 3rd May 2017. It is requesting further information and stakeholder opinions on areas including:
- advertising, including on billboards, bus stops, vehicles, posters, leaflets and banners.
- free distribution and nominal pricing.
- domestic sponsorship of activities, events or people.
The TPD prohibits any form of advertising that is likely to cross borders into another EU member state. This essentially includes international sponsorship as well as advertising on radio, TV, or online and in international print – with certain business-to-business exceptions.
The UK has chosen to take a light touch approach to regulating advertising beyond this. It continues to allow a number of other forms of advertising, including outdoor, cinema and point-of-sale ads. This is in contrast to many other major European e-cig markets, such as Poland.
Scotland, however, could go further than the Westminster government with additional legislation in these areas, though details at present remain sketchy.
No draft proposal
“The Scottish government will be consulting on the detail of these proposed measures during spring and early summer,” said Elaine Mitchell of the Edinburgh government’s Tobacco Control Team. “So there is no draft proposal other than the proposals set out in the policy memorandum for the health bill as introduced [in the Scottish parliament in 2015].”
The memorandum suggests bringing in restrictions along the lines of those contained in the UK’s Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002. It would mean e-cigarettes would face restrictions north of the border similar to those currently placed on tobacco advertising throughout the UK.
And this has caused some concern in the e-cigarette industry.
It is unclear, for example, how the law would be enforced in cases where advertising near the border affects Scottish consumers.
Scottish businesses are also unsure how the restrictions would impact on their ability to discuss e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco and a potential tool for cessation.
Although advertising as a cessation product is illegal in the UK without authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), cessation services can provide impartial information.
Neil McCallum, CEO of Edinburgh-based JAC Vapour, said e-cigarette brands needed to communicate with the MHRA. He said companies can also discuss their products as potential tobacco alternatives in permitted forms of advertising. However, possible advertising restrictions could hinder this in Scotland.
“It will be difficult to consider the benefits of vaping if you cannot provide any notification that you are a trusted vaping brand,” he told ECigIntelligence.
What This Means: The Scottish government is currently only asking for opinions on the matter so there is no certainty about exactly what future regulation it is likely to bring in – particularly as information on e-cigarettes continues to evolve.
However, businesses in the UK should be aware of the potential for new regulations north of the border and be prepared to change practices to fit them.
– Freddie Dawson ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Aidan Semmens