ONCE hailed as a revolution in smoking, e-cigarettes are now in the firing line.
Advertising for the alternatives to tobacco cigarettes has been criticised for targeting younger people with fun cartoon characters and offerings of flavours such as bubble gum and candy.
Now Gloucester city councillors have joined national calls for such adverts to be banned.
E-cigarettes do not contain all the harmful chemicals that are found in normal cigarettes, but they still use nicotine, which creates the addiction for smokers
There are concerns that younger people may be enticed to take up e-cigarettes and become addicted, rather than the intended purpose of encouraging existing smokers to switch to a safer alternative.
Councillor Janet Lugg (L, Matson and Robinswood) has spearheaded a campaign in Gloucester to back calls for a ban on certain types of e-cigarette advertising. She said: “E-cigarettes are a great way to get addicts of cigarettes on to a safer alternative but there is a concern that young people may actually take these up too.
“I was at the cinema the other day watching a film rated 15 and there were adverts for e-cigarettes, for example.”
Gloucester’s smoking habits are above the national average. Annually there are around 201 deaths in an area of Gloucester’s size, compared to 226 deaths in the city on average.
Councillor Jeremy Hilton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, backed the calls. He said: “They can be just as hazardous as the real thing because of the increased nicotine people will consume.
“We should be discouraging youngsters from taking these up.”
Councillor Declan Wilson (LD, Hucclecote) said: “It is absolutely shocking. They are offering bubble gum and candy flavours which are clearly targeted at younger people. We should definitely get behind this campaign.”
Councillor Kate Haigh, leader of the Labour group, said: “I have seen adverts with cartoon fruit such as smiling bananas. These e-cigarettes may be useful for people coming off cigarettes but they should not be advertised in this way.”
E-cigarettes – or electronic cigarettes – are not a new invention. They were first patented in 1963 but in recent years, following the smoking ban, they have seen a huge rise in popularity.
They contain a heating element which vaporises a liquid, which usually contains nicotine and an added flavour.
The e-cigarette market has been criticised for being largely unregulated despite uncertainties still remaining over their health impacts. Some countries such as Turkey have banned their use.
Dee Power, owner of E-Vapor, in Westgate Street, which sells e-cigarettes, said that his company does not sell products to anyone without ID to prove they are over 18 and he would discourage non-smokers from taking them up.
Mr Power said: “We are providing an alternative to smoking for existing smokers. I have only had on non-smoker come to us in the six months we have been open and I discouraged him from buying a product, but he insisted on buying one, although it did not contain nicotine.
“You should see the number of youngsters smoking outside the shop. Obviously I prefer to sell them a safer alternative, but we do not.
“None of our advertising contains cartoon characters and is not targeted at youngsters in anyway. In fact we don’t advertise at all, just outside the shop.”
He also hit back at claims that sweet flavours were targeting youngsters. “Since when can you not enjoy bubble gum just because you are an adult,” he said. “We have flavours such as banana, vanilla and fruit punch. The flavours are part of the attraction for smokers because they taste better than cigarettes. It helps to encourage them to make the switch. Only the other day I had an old lady ask for a fruit punch flavour.”