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Ads for sweet-tasting e-cigarettes could 'encourage kids to start vaping'

A person smoking an e-cigarette. Photo: PA Images

Advertisements for chocolate and bubble gum-flavoured e-cigarettes could encourage children to try vaping, according to new research by the University of Cambridge.

The study, carried out for the Department of Health, examined concerns that the use of e-cigarettes among children and adolescents could lead to tobacco smoking.

The study found school children shown adverts for candy-flavoured e-cigarettes expressed greater interest in buying and trying them than their peers.

It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes and e-liquids to under-18s in the UK, but their use rose from 5% in 2013 to 8% in 2014, researchers from the university's Behaviour and Health Research Unit said.

An e-cigarette next to a normal cigarette. Credit: PA Images

We're cautiously optimistic from our results that e-cigarette ads don't make tobacco smoking more attractive, but we're concerned that ads for e-cigarettes with flavours that might appeal to school children could encourage them to try the products.

– Milica Vasiljevic, University of Cambridge.

The researchers said candy and liqueur-flavoured tobacco products were heavily marketed towards young people from the 1970s to 2009 when regulations were imposed.

The researchers said that the study supported moves for greater regulation of advertising for e-cigarettes, including rules that adverts must not be likely to appeal to under-18s.

New rules have been issued by the Committee on Advertising Practice but do not include explicit prohibitions on candly-like flavours.

The results of the current study support the imminent changes in EU regulations surrounding the marketing of e-cigarettes, but raise questions about the need for further regulation regarding the content of products with high appeal to children.

More research is needed to examine both the short and long-term impact of e-cigarette advertising, as well as the link between e-cigarette use and tobacco smoking.

– Committee on Advertising Practice