A television advert for Mirage e-Cigarettes, which was showing a man and a woman using e-cigarettes amid clouds of vapour, while on-screen text read “choice”, “flavour” and “freedom” was deemed as creating strong associations with the smoking of traditional cigarettes, and was thus banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
ASA intervened to ban the television commercial after five viewers had complained that the depiction of the couple glamourised smoking tobacco products, and challenged whether the ad promoted the use of tobacco. Although the advertised company, i.e. Mirage, said that the advert did not show or make any reference to tobacco products, and also pointed to the fact that the products shown in the ad were larger than traditional cigarettes, as well as being metal and although the pertinent ad clearance agency Clearcast had also deemed the ad as acceptable because the imagery and language used was restrained and the products did not resemble traditional tobacco products, ASA proposed that the ad created a general impression of “sultry glamour and intimacy”, and the shots of heavy vapour had the appearance of tobacco smoke.
Ruling that the specific advertisement should not be broadcast again in its current form, ASA explained that it considered “the prominence of the heavy vapour throughout the ad, in conjunction with the music, the shots of the couple, and the softly spoken voice-over, which contributed to the ad’s sultry and glamorous tone, created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.” ASA concluded that the ad “indirectly promoted the use of tobacco products,” although it admitted that it was clear that the products shown were electronic cigarettes, because “the ad created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking and presented it as the central focus in a sultry and glamorous, and therefore in a positive way.” The Authority also urged Mirage Cigarettes to make sure that their future ads will not promote the use of tobacco products.
In the UK, through new rules enforced recently by the Committee of Advertising Practice, e-cigarette advertisements are allowed to be shown in ads across media, provided they do not attempt to tap into youth culture or promote any link with tobacco products. According to these rules, ads must not encourage the use of e-cigarettes by non-smokers, they must make clear that the product is an e-cigarette and not a tobacco product and finally they must not contain anything that could be associated in the audience’s mind with a particular tobacco brand.