Sales ban on e-cigarettes only a first step

E-cigarettes are increasingly appearing in music videos Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Martin McKee is Professor of European Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

I welcome the ban on sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s but only as a first step.

The real danger is that this is exploited by the tobacco industry to say that e-cigarettes are for adults only and therefore they become something that kids aspire to.

We need to be very clear: It is the act of smoking that is being pushed, regardless of whether or not it is e-cigarettes or real cigarettes.

The tobacco industry, which is now increasingly taking over the ownership of the e-cigarette manufacturers, is using advertisements that are almost identical to those that it used in the 1950s and 60s. The only things that are different are the clothes that the models are wearing and that cars that they are sitting on.

This is, for the tobacco industry, a way of getting round the bans that have been placed on their main products.

Music videos

There is a real push at the minute to link the imagery of smoking to celebrity, to promote it as something that it cool, in a way that normalises and glamorises it.

It is now socially-unacceptable for many celebrities to smoke cigarettes in public. They know that it is not something that people want to see so they don't do it.

But e-cigarettes are a way of getting round that; you can get celebrities to use something that looks for all the world like cigarettes and kids see as cigarettes.

There is some evidence already emerging that it will be a gateway to smoking.

If you look at recent music videos that have e-cigarettes in them, although they are allegedly not directed at children, of course many children will be looking at it.

A range of electronic cigarettes on sale Credit: Mousse/ABACA/Press Association Images

Cotton candy flavour

I would like to see a comprehensive ban on the marketing - not just on billboards, television and radio, but also on product placement.

We know that the tobacco industry has been very successful at getting round bans on advertising by getting its products into movies, for example.

I would also like to see a ban on the addition of flavours that appear to be aimed at children.

We know that the e-cigarette companies are putting flavours like bubble-gum, cotton candy, strawberries into their products - it is very difficult to stand back and say that is not being aimed at children.

Martin McKee is Professor of European Public Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. His views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.

  • See Sejal Karia's full report on e-cigarettes on the ITV News at 6:50pm