With cigarette packaging set to go blank in May, what impact will this have on the advertising of e-cigarettes?

A Brief History of Cigarette Advertising

Television advertising for cigarettes was banned in August 1965, with rolling tobacco and cigars still having commercials running until 1991. Before then, cigarette adverts and sponsorships were commonplace, with some even running alongside children’s shows such as The Flintstones.

Legislation on poster advertising only came under tighter control in the mid-eighties when a law was passed banning adverts from actually depicting people smoking. All general advertising of cigarettes was eventually outlawed in early 2003. 

Approved by Physicians!

Back in the days before cigarettes were widely seen as a health hazard, posters would sincerely flaunt their “benefits” to consumers. All the research was done by the advertising companies themselves, in order to justify claims of guaranteed weight loss, better skin and less throat irritation.

E-Cigarette Advertising

With e-cig retailers TABlites revealing that an estimated 2.6 million adults now use e-cigarettes, it seems that vaping is becoming a more widely-accepted substitute for smoking.

But the laws restricting cigarette advertising have posed something of a problem for people trying to market e-cigarettes. Ofcom received complaints that an April 2015 advert for Mirage E-Cigarettes glamorised smoking, and was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for “indirectly promot[ing] the use of tobacco products.”

Among the other rules around advertising e-cigarettes, companies are not allowed to depict anyone under the age of 25 vaping, nor make any claims regarding their relative health risk to tobacco. As the latter is one of the major reasons for their popularity, it leaves e-cigarette companies with difficult choices to make about how to make themselves stand out in an already crowded marketplace.

Star Power!

E-cigarette companies have found the use of celebrity spokespeople as one way around this problem. The likes of Vinnie Jones, Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff have all appeared in adverts for e-cigarettes in the last few years. This doesn’t seem too far removed from campaigns in the forties and fifties, which featured Laurel & Hardy, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and countless other stars of the day. The older cigarette adverts also often cross-promoted with the stars’ latest movie projects, another tactic banned under the current laws.