4 Additional Restrictions on Advertising/ Promotion
4.1 Question 1 – Limiting the use of these products
The Scottish Government proposes that vaping products should be positioned purely as a smoking cessation aid to help those currently smoking tobacco products move to a less harmful alternative and gradually quit completely.
Do you agree that we should be seeking to limit use of these products to that as a cessation aid and restrict exposure to them by non-smokers?
Table A1 (Appendix A) provides the quantitative response to Question 1.
The views of respondents are mixed:
- 50.7% of all respondents agree that the Scottish Government should seek to limit use of vaping products as a cessation aid and restrict exposure to non-smokers. The level of support among organisation respondents is higher than among individual respondents (73.2% and 49.4% respectively). This includes local government and health organisations.
- 47.6% of all respondents disagree with the proposal. Individuals are more likely than organisations to disagree (49.1% and 22.0% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes the vaping sector and other organisations.
The percentages reported above for respondents who agree or disagree with the proposal do not total 100%. This is because the remainder of respondents answered, “Don’t know”. This is the same approach used throughout the rest of the main document.
4.1.1 Respondents who agree with the proposal
Almost one-quarter of all respondents who agree with the proposal to limit use of vaping products to that as a cessation aid and restrict exposure to non-smokers provide further explanation. The main themes expressed are outlined below.
Theme 1: Smoking cessation
There are many comments from respondents (e.g. individuals, health organisations, and local government) that express further support for tightening the advertising and promotion of vaping products, and for these to be restricted as set out in the Consultation Paper.
These respondents feel this to be a “timely”, “sensible” and “reasonable” approach to promote and limit the use of vaping products to that as a cessation aid for smokers. Common feedback from these respondents is that vaping products are “not for long term use” and “not for non-smokers”.
The effectiveness of vaping products as a “tool” to stop smoking (for some people); for their “medicinal purpose as a smoking aid”; and/or as a “harm reduction intervention” are all common phrases used by these same respondents. This includes individual respondents with personal experience of using vaping products and those who point to an existing evidence base.
“A valuable tool in helping me stop smoking but am aware that beyond my personal, positive experience of them, vape tools are at risk of, if not already, being made attractive to non-smoking younger people”.
“…it should be made explicit on vaping products packaging that these are products for people to use as an aid to stop smoking and should not be used by people who do not smoke tobacco”.
NHS Lanarkshire Tobacco Control Management team
Some health organisation respondents note that people who smoke should be given sufficient information about all cessation aids, to make an informed choice as to what product, if any, is most suitable for their circumstances. These organisations include NHS Lanarkshire Tobacco Control Management team, National Smoking Cessation Co-ordinators Group, NHS Orkney Public Health, and NHS Fife.
“Stop Smoking Service provision uses evidenced based pharmacological products, such as Nicotine Replacement Treatments, Varenicline or Bupropion, alongside specialist behavioural support should always be advised as preferential in the first instance and smokers provided with sufficient information to make an informed choice as to which is most suitable for their circumstances”.
Some health organisations note that wider issues may need to be considered in promoting the use of nicotine vaping products (NVPs) as a part of the NHS smoking cessation offer. In its response, NHS Fife report that “messaging would need to be simple and understandable” for particular groups. Further, both NHS Fife and NHS Orkney Public Health raise a point about the potential for future legal action.
“Currently NHS cessation services do not supply NVPs. Given the lack of evidence of the long-term impacts of vapour inhalation consideration should be made to potential future litigation in the event of unforeseen negative health impact of NVPs”.
NHS Orkney Public Health
Theme 2: Effective and not restrictive regulation
There is broad support from those responding positively (e.g. local government, health organisations, and some vaping sector respondents) in support of the proposal for effective, rather than restrictive, regulation. These respondents feel that regulation should not only ensure that “e-cigarettes are available and promoted to people who smoke as one tool to help them quit, but ensure e-cigarette marketing and promotion does not target people who have never smoked and young people”.
These respondents also suggest that a “balanced regulatory framework” could allow for targeted marketing channels for adult smokers while limiting mass media channels that may appeal to those who are underage.
A concern raised by respondents (expressed by National Smoking Cessation Co-ordinators Group, NHS Orkney Public Health, and a vaping organisation) is that if legislation is “too restrictive”, advertising may not reach smokers who may want to use e-cigarettes.
Where mentioned, individual and organisation respondents both feel that it is important that current adult smokers, who may choose to use e-cigarettes for a cessation attempt, should be able to receive targeted information and communication about vaping products.
Theme 3: Health harms
Many individual and organisation respondents feel that while they understood that adults have the right to choose to smoke if they wish to do so, restricting exposure of vaping products to non-smokers is considered important given the long-term health impacts of vaping products are not yet fully known.
A “cautious approach to the use of vaping products” is welcomed by health organisations in support of the proposal – “there is still a lot we do not know about vaping products”. Respondents asked for further research on the use and effectiveness of vaping products, including in comparison to other smoking cessation products. Continued education, communication and awareness raising on the “potential dangers of the long-term use of e-cigarettes” is considered important by these respondents. These respondents feel that restricting exposure of vaping products could “help reduce the numbers of non-smokers using these products unnecessarily”.
Some organisation respondents (e.g. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit) point to existing research, including Electronic cigarettes and health outcomes: systematic review of global evidence (April 2022).
The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh also note that “advertising, promotion and sponsorship of nicotine e-cigarettes is already banned in 22 countries. Partial regulations have been adopted by 53 countries. Specific regulations vary from country to country, with approaches including minimising misleading advertising, banning distinctive branding elements on packaging, focusing on regulating aspects that appeal to young people such as flavours and the use of cartoon images on packaging.
Some vaping sector respondents in favour of restrictions also note that a balanced approach must be taken to address “existing misperceptions”.
Theme 4: Appeal of vaping products
Many respondents (e.g. individuals, health organisations, local government) feel that the current advertising and packaging of vaping products may encourage non-smokers to try them. Individuals and organisation respondents note the use of “bright colours” and a range of “fruity flavours”, and current use of displays that are “slick, colourful, eye-catching”. They also feel that some vape products can appear similar to highlighter pens that can be easily concealed. Concern is expressed among these respondents that such methods have greater appeal and may be more attractive to certain groups. School age children and young people are frequently mentioned in the consultation responses.
“… recent work on single use vapes by Trading Standards in Scotland has shown that significant numbers of school children are using them. Complaints have been received from parents of children as young as 13”.
Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS)
While the University of Glasgow MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit note in its response that:
“We are cautious about suggesting that use of e-cigarettes causes a greater likelihood of smoking. It may simply be that the same young people who are inclined to use e-cigarettes, are also inclined to use cigarettes and would have ended up using cigarettes anyway regardless of vaping….Nevertheless, the strong association between e-cigarette use and smoking is present among UK youth, and if any portion of this association represent a causal effect on uptake of smoking, then it is concerning that youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who have never smoked are more likely to vape”.
Theme 5: A need for restrictions around display and supply
Respondents (e.g. health organisations, local government, some individuals) feel that more restrictions on display and supply are needed if the Scottish Government is serious about viewing vaping products as a safer alternative to smoking rather than a lifestyle choice. These respondents feel that the current “inappropriate” advertising of vaping products and the prominent in-store display of these products (e.g. shop windows, at the end of aisles, beside tobacco counters) act as a strong “hook” for some people to try vaping products. These respondents also note that this has the “potential for non-smokers who vape to become addicted to nicotine in this format”. As such, these respondents suggest that “access to these products needs to be controlled carefully”, and that vaping products should not be viewed as “fashionable”, “more socially acceptable” or a “lifestyle choice” for children and young people.
“Vaping is more socially acceptable, has less associated stigma and less restricted compared to tobacco smoking. Consequently, non-smokers / members of the public, including young people, are more likely to be exposed to NVPs in everyday life than tobacco. This can function to subliminally normalise this behaviour making it appear more socially acceptable and encourage initiation (and continuation) of vaping products amongst non-smokers”.
NHS Orkney Public Health
4.1.2 Respondents who disagree with the proposal
Almost half of all respondents who disagree with the proposal to limit use of vaping products purely as a cessation aid and restrict exposure to non-smokers provide further explanation.
While not supportive of the Scottish Government proposal, there is consensus among these respondents, including the vaping sector, tobacco industry and other organisations, that vaping products should not be sold to children and young people, and that advertising and promotional activities should not be aimed at this target group.
The main themes emerging are as follows.
Theme 1: Sufficient information to make an informed choice
Respondents (e.g. some individuals, vaping sector and tobacco industry) feel that further restrictions on the advertising of vaping products may result in current adult smokers not being made aware of this product as a means of helping them to give up smoking.
For some of these respondents the proposal is considered “counter-productive” as vaping products are an effective tool to stop smoking. This view is held by individual respondents who use/have used vaping products, and those who feel an improvement in their physical and/or mental health because of their use.
The vaping sector note that it is important that adult smokers have access to all the options available to them and have the freedom to choose the method which best fits their lifestyle and satisfies their needs. These respondents note that there are many different e-cigarette products available on the market, and adult smokers should be able to explore these options.
A widely held view among individual respondents is that adults should have the freedom of choice to purchase e-cigarettes. Some respondents, mainly individuals, feel that vaping products are not just a cessation aid but “an alternative to smoking” or “lifestyle choice” from which they get “pleasure” or “enjoyment”. They are said to be a “consumer product”.
Further, some of these respondents note that it would be “extremely difficult to restrict e-cigarette advertising exposure to non-smokers”, and that “non-smokers should be made aware of the risk reduction in use of vaping products [as] they are the ones that will push family and friends to make a positive choice for their health”.
Theme 2: A need to promote the benefits of vaping over smoking
A common view among those responding negatively to the proposals (e.g. some individuals, vaping sector, tobacco industry) is that adults need to be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer and less addictive than smoking and that wide promotion of e-cigarettes may help with the “general downward trend of smoking rates”. This is evidenced from published papers including a Public Health England (PHE) review - E-cigarettes: an evidence update (August 2015). These respondents report that vaping is a “healthier” and/or “safer” option to cigarettes.
Further, the tobacco industry note that the proposals could “disproportionately limit the opportunities for…adult smokers to understand the relative risk differentiation between combustible tobacco products and e-cigarettes”. The tobacco industry also note that “e-cigarettes are not purely a tool for cessation” - the point made is that some smokers could opt to use e-cigarettes alongside conventional tobacco which they feel would still reduce their overall risk levels.
Some individual respondents hold a view that existing research has not yet fully proven the long-term harm/dangers that may be caused by vaping. Another point raised by these respondents is that they believe that “most non-smokers won't vape anyway” or that “there is no evidence that non-smokers are taking up vaping in any great number and there is no justification for limiting advertising”.
Further, the vaping sector and tobacco industry also consider it important that “the wealth of evidence supporting the efficacy of vaping products in smoking cessation” should inform regulatory reviews of the e-cigarette industry. For example, these respondents point to wider evidence published by NHS Health Scotland, ASH Scotland, and the Royal College of Physicians.
Advertising widely is considered important by these respondents (e.g. some individuals, vaping sector and tobacco industry) in three main areas:
- To raise awareness of the various options available for those who want to stop smoking traditional cigarettes.
- To help those who have stopped smoking to stay off cigarettes.
- For those who might be thinking of starting smoking.
Respondents (individuals, vaping sector, and tobacco industry) feel that having sufficient information to make an informed choice is crucial.
Theme 3: Effects on smoking rates
The vaping sector note that an unintended consequence of restricting vape products to use as a cessation aid could be an increase in smoking rates. The point made by these respondents is that if someone is determined to try nicotine, it would be preferable for them to try the least harmful methods, which means maintaining the availability of vape devices until smoking has been eliminated. The vaping sector note that the proposals could have the unintended consequence of limiting the full potential of e-cigarettes and vape devices as an effective means to stop smoking.
Further, these same respondents feel that the additional restrictions proposed, alongside further measures which could result in e-cigarettes existing purely in a clinical environment (e.g. allowing vapes only to be available on prescription, with the associated requirements of obtaining medical licenses), would limit the agility of the industry, and prevent further product development to the detriment of smokers looking to quit.
Many respondents who disagree with the proposal (e.g. some individuals, vaping sector, tobacco industry) feel that restricting advertising of vaping products may simply discourage people from using such products and encourage smokers to continue to smoke.
Theme 4: Insufficient evidence base
The vaping sector and tobacco industry point to existing controls on vaping products and note that they have already been effective in preventing under-18s and never-smokers from accessing vape products. These respondents feel that the proposed measures are not proportionate, “given the very low levels of e-cigarette use among never-smokers and under-18s” and point to various reports in support of this. They also consider there to be insufficient evidence that vaping acts as a gateway to smoking.
Theme 5: Effective regulation
Both the vaping sector and tobacco industry note that there are areas that can, and must, be addressed through (effective and proportionate) regulation to limit the youth appeal of all e-cigarettes. In addition, through regulation and enforcement, it is suggested by some of these respondents that the Scottish Government should ensure that all e-cigarettes (including non-nicotine containing and disposable vapes) which meet high safety, quality and packaging standards can be placed on the market.
Theme 6: Will make vaping more forbidden and exciting to some people
Some individual respondents feel that further restrictions could make vaping “more taboo” and could encourage those under-18 to experiment with these products.
“Placing restrictions on vaping will place it in the same category as smoking, which will make it much more appealing to young people, much in the same way placing restrictions on smoking make young people feel like they are doing something illicit and dangerous and therefore exciting”.
4.2 Question 2 – Extend advertising restrictions
The Scottish Government has adopted a precautionary approach to the use of vaping products due to the limited evidence on the long-term health impact of vaping. All the evidence around the use of and impact from these products is kept under constant review. Should the current health fears around prolonged use of vaping products not materialise, the Scottish Government propose to review, and potentially lift, any introduced restrictions around their advertising and promotion.
While available evidence shows these products are less harmful than smoking in the short-term, the harmful toxins and chemicals contained within give reasonable cause for concern over the impact of long-term usage. The Scottish Government propose that they should not be advertised on billboards and advertising hoardings, on buses and vehicles, on leaflets and flyers and on moving video advertising apparatus.
Do you agree with the proposal to extend restrictions on advertising these products in the ways described above?
Table A2 (Appendix A) provides the quantitative response to Question 2.
The views of respondents are mixed:
- 48.5% of all respondents agree with the Scottish Government proposal to extend restrictions on advertising vaping products. The level of support among organisation respondents is higher than among individual respondents (58.1% and 47.9% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes local government and health organisations.
- A similar proportion of respondents disagree with the proposal (48.2%). Individuals are more likely than organisations to disagree (49.0% and 34.9% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes the tobacco industry, vaping sector, and other organisations.
There was a technical problem with the Citizen Space website, and those who submitted a response via Citizen Space were not able to provide a response to the open-ended question at Question 2. The qualitative analysis is limited to non-Citizen-Space submissions.
4.2.1 Respondents who agree with the proposal
There are limited comments from those who agree with the Scottish Government proposal that vaping products should not be advertised on billboards and advertising hoardings, on buses and vehicles, on leaflets and flyers and on moving video advertising apparatus (13 comments). All except two comments are from health organisations.
The main themes are outlined below.
Theme 1: A positive impact on children and young people
A common theme from health organisations is that restricting advertising in this way could help reduce “visibility” of vaping products among certain population groups. Children, young people, and non-smokers are all mentioned in the consultation responses.
Many health organisation respondents point to existing research and other resources to help explain their support for the proposal. The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015 and 2018 reports are often referenced. These respondents note that this research shows that “the proportion of young people who have never smoked and who have used e-cigarettes has increased over time”. These respondents also feel that “advertising to non-smokers aims to increase uptake of e-cigarettes in this population group”.
The popularity of vaping in young people is also raised as a concern by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Scotland (RCPCH Scotland) members, who state that “young people may be more inclined to experiment with new products, especially those which are flavoured and coloured to be appealing. Young people may also be less aware of the potential harm due to little public awareness campaigns regarding vaporising”. RCPCH Scotland also refer to the ASH Scotland ‘Talking to teens about smoking’ resource which states that “teenagers' brains are still developing, and they get addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes much faster than adults do. They find nicotine more rewarding, underestimate the risks of smoking, and are more influenced by smoking behaviour around them.” RCPCH Scotland feel that nicotine containing products, particularly inhalational products should be highly restricted and should face the same restrictions as tobacco containing products – “there should be no advertising, no sponsorship and plain packaging”.
Some health organisation respondents note a range of issues from a Cancer Research UK commissioned research report - E-cigarette marketing in the UK: evidence from adult and youth surveys and policy compliance studies (March 2021) - including that young people generally notice e-cigarette marketing more than adults across almost all channels, and young people who have never smoked or vaped notice e-cigarette marketing more than adults who smoke across almost all channels.
Some health organisation respondents highlight that they believe that the tobacco industry has a history of exploiting regulatory loopholes, subverting public policy and legislation in their concerns (e.g. industry has adopted the public health concept of ‘harm reduction’ in messaging) – and was evidenced in a research paper.
Theme 2: Further restrictions will provide additional safeguards
Another common view from health organisation respondents is that the proposed restrictions on advertising vaping products could provide additional safeguards. These respondents feel this could help ensure that advertising does not directly or indirectly target or appeal to children, young people, and adult non-smokers. Feedback from these respondents is that current advertising arrangements for vaping products could:
- Increase visibility of such products.
- Build brand and image recognition and familiarity.
- Increase consumption of vaping products through normalising products.
- Be very stylish and include selective quotes from experts such as CRUK and PHE – it is felt that this “can be misleading and gives the impression of endorsement”.
Theme 3: Reducing health harms
Another common theme from respondents (e.g. health organisations) is that further restrictions on advertising, in line with tobacco products, could discourage the use of nicotine in any form. These respondents consider this to be important given the current “uncertainty relating to long-term health risks and the known addictive qualities of nicotine”. A point reiterated is that promotion should position vaping products purely as a smoking cessation aid to help those currently smoking tobacco products move to a less harmful alternative and gradually quit completely.
“Restrictions should be same as currently in place for tobacco products - essentially to reduce the opportunity to share subliminal messages to increase initiation of vaping in non-smokers, including children and young people. Any advertising permitted should clarify the products are for use only by individuals who are wishing to stop smoking as part of a smoking cessation attempt and…not for long-term use”.
Joint response from the joint response from Scottish Directors of Public Health Group (SDsPH), Public Health Scotland (PHS) and Scottish Health Promotion Managers (SHPM)
4.2.2 Respondents who disagree with the proposal
There are limited comments from those who disagree with the Scottish Government proposal that vaping products should not be advertised on billboards and advertising hoardings, on buses and vehicles, on leaflets and flyers and on moving video advertising apparatus (10 responses in total).
The vaping sector and tobacco industry provide most of the qualitative comments, followed by other organisations (e.g. those that sell tobacco and vaping related products).
The main themes are outlined below.
Theme 1: A current strong regulatory regime
A common theme from vaping sector respondents is that The Tobacco and Related Product Regulations (TRPR, 2016) provides the “framework for a responsible vaping industry”. These respondents feel that current regulation prevents adverts which are designed to encourage sales from underage users, and the industry is in firm support of bodies enforcing these regulations. It enables “factual product information to be communicated to existing adult smokers, while ensuring that vape products are not promoted in any way to youth and non-smokers”.
There is reference within the consultation responses from the vaping sector to the following in support of this point: the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), Code of Conduct, Preventing Underage Sales Guide, and various examples of industry strict marketing guidelines (e.g. prohibiting wording - flavour names and descriptors, measures to ensure responsible sales practices, working closely with regulators to implement best practice, and supporting legislation preventing the sale of vape products to young people).
Theme 2: Undermine public health
The vaping sector and tobacco industry feel that the advertising and promotion of vaping products is “heavily restricted in Scotland”, and that “there is no evidence that that the remaining limited means of advertising is causing increased uptake by youth or non-smokers in Scotland”.
Regulated and responsible industry advertising is felt by these respondents to be an important “information access point” for existing adult smokers looking to move to a less harmful alternative and gradually quit completely.
The increasing level of vaping product use among young people outlined in the Consultation Paper is disputed by some of these respondents. Further, they note that the number of adult smokers using vaping products in Scotland has remained relatively stable for several years.
There is also reference within vaping sector consultation responses to data on the use of e-cigarettes among never smokers and minors. These respondents note that current regulations have been largely successful in ensuring e-cigarettes are aimed at, and used by, adult smokers. The proposal to ban the limited remaining channels for advertising vaping products in Scotland is said by these respondents to be “unnecessary” and could “undermine public health”.
Theme 3: Appropriate access to information for adult smokers
The vaping sector and tobacco industry feel that advertising, promotional and marketing activities and communications should only be targeted/directed and appeal to adults. There is strong support among these respondents for efforts to prevent both youth access to, and use of, vaping products. For example, a suggestion made by some of these respondents is that guidance should be clear that nicotine products should never be marketed, or sold, in ways that mimic youth-oriented products (e.g. by using branding or packaging that mimics confectionary, or other youth-oriented products), and that this could ensure products are not particularly appealing to youth and never smokers. These respondents also feel that a balance needs to be struck to ensure that e-cigarettes remain sufficiently visible to adult smokers to move away from using tobacco.
Theme 4: Reduced visibility
Vaping sector respondents note that they are already limited in their ability to reach consumers, and the proposals would further reduce the visibility of vaping devices and its ability to “denormalise smoking”. These respondents feel that the proposed approach by the Scottish Government is not “precautionary”. Rather, these respondents feel the measures “incorrectly conflate the relative risk of combustible tobacco and vaping, thus deterring potential quitters from exploring a highly effective method”.
A point made by these respondents is that proposals to prohibit in-store promotional displays, as well as advertisements on billboards and bus stops, “would ultimately result in reduced visibility for the target audience of adult smokers, and do not directly address potential concerns on youth access”. It is further noted that allowing responsible retailers and manufacturers to communicate their products and services and highlight the health/cost benefits of making the move to e-cigarettes in a targeted manner, could help reduce smoking prevalence.
Vaping sector respondents suggest that more analysis is required to examine the most appropriate channels for reaching adult smokers before implementing a widespread ban on the channels proposed in the consultation paper.
It is also suggested by the tobacco industry that the proposals do not fit with current advice from the RCP which states that: “in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK”. Further, the RCP states that “if [a risk averse and precautionary] approach also makes e-cigarettes less easily accessible, less palatable or acceptable, more expensive, less consumer friendly or pharmacologically less effective, or inhibits innovation and development of new and improved products, then it causes harm by perpetuating smoking”.
Theme 5: Misinformation regarding the relative risks of vape products
The vaping sector and tobacco industry note that independent expert reports commissioned by PHE have repeatedly raised concerns regarding growing misperceptions of the harm caused by vaping compared with smoking and that this should be addressed.
The tobacco industry notes that further restraining product communications and applying the same regulatory restrictions for combustible tobacco products to e-cigarettes, as proposed in the Consultation Paper, would make the situation worse.
These respondents note that “due to the clear distinction between vape products and combustible tobacco, vape products should be regulated separately from existing tobacco advertising restrictions/bans, with regulated advertising and promotion permitted”. A point raised by the vaping sector is that rather than a proportionate approach, the Scottish Government proposes to increase the regulation of e-cigarettes similar to that applicable to the advertising and promotion of cigarettes, the most harmful means of consuming nicotine. It is suggested that conflating these products will add to the already high levels of misinformation.
These respondents also point to recent evidence that consumer confidence in the reduced harm potential of vape products is decreasing. For example, the ASH report Use of e-cigarettes (vapes) among adults in Great Britain (2021) notes that nearly one-third of existing smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is more or equally harmful as smoking.
Taken together, such issues are felt by these respondents to undermine the ability of consumers to make informed choices and discourage moving away from using tobacco. It is felt that restrictions on vaping sends a strong message that there is no benefit to moving from smoking to vaping.
Increasing consumer knowledge and confidence in vaping products is seen by these respondents as crucial in supporting successful smoking quit attempts and achieving Scotland’s Smoke-free ambition. To achieve this, they note that adult smokers must not be discouraged from transitioning by misleading information and media reporting. These respondents feel that advertising should be permitted provided it contains clear and accurate information about vape products and their relative risk compared to smoking and is targeted at adult smokers and vapers only. Regulated advertising of scientifically substantiated information on the reduced risk potential of vape products could improve confidence in the alternatives to smoking.
Theme 6: Improved enforcement of existing regulations and industry led regulation
There is wide agreement among respondents (e.g. vaping sector, tobacco industry) that there needs to be “robust measures and processes” in place to prevent nicotine products from being sold to young people. Some of these respondents note that the proposed restrictions are in response to some retailers selling vaping devices to people under the age of 18. Some of these respondents also note that adding further restrictions on adverting and promotion may not make a difference to businesses that break the law but could affect legitimate businesses which help people to stop smoking – “given the core concern is the product and packaging itself, not advertising and promotion”.
Vaping sector and tobacco industry respondents also query whether existing regulations are being sufficiently enforced. The vaping sector and tobacco industry note support for “vigorously enforcing existing age restrictions on all age restricted products” and for “tougher sanctions for those breaking the rules and tightening regulations particularly on placement”. These respondents feel there is scope for improved enforcement of existing regulations and industry led regulation to maintain high industry standards and compliance. They also suggest that Trading Standards officers need greater support in identifying non-compliance in age verification, and that this could combat perceived fears of wider vape use. Respondents note that the Trading Standards and UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) partnership as one example.
The vaping sector also encourage the Scottish Government to work closely with counterparts across the UK “to ensure online and social media spaces are more effectively regulated and rules enforced to protect young people from being exposed to harmful content”.
Theme 7: Impact on convenience stores
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) raise various points on the impact of the proposed restrictions on its members:
- Leaflets, Flyers and Advertising Hoarders – these are said to be an important promotional tools that convenience retailers use to promote products and services in their stores, and that restricting use would reduce retailers’ ability to promote their offer and compete with other businesses. The concern raised is that many independent retailers may be disproportionately impacted given that they are more likely to use leaflets and flyers compared to larger retailers. ACS say there is a need for clear definitions of the advertising mechanisms that are proposed to be restricted (e.g. shop window displays are distinct from advertising hoardings).
- Moving Video Apparatus – ACS note that almost one-third of retailers have digital display screens in their stores - some retailers have long standing contracts with suppliers associated with video display units (e.g. contractual agreements to display certain products such as e-cigarettes). They note that the Scottish Government proposal could affect such agreements. Other retailers own and operate their own display screens and generate income from suppliers for advertising products. The main challenge is reported by ACS as being clear about what types of equipment are impacted by the proposals. It suggests that the Scottish Government needs to “clearly set out the definition they will use in regulations and provide guidance on the different technologies this impacts”.
The ACS also emphasise the importance of sufficient lead-in time for any changes to be introduced.
The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) highlights the role of the convenience store sector in achieving the Scottish Government’s ambition of a tobacco-free generation in Scotland by 2034. “SGF and its member stores want to help our customers transition away from cigarettes towards vaping products”. It also notes that “advertising and promotion have several key functions, which taken together, are vital ways in which vaping products become attractive to current smokers – to reach new users, shape the brand preferences of existing users, and create premium brands. If the public health benefits of vaping are to be realised, then vaping products have to be appealing to adult smokers”.
4.2.3 Further clarity on the proposals
Several health organisation respondents are concerned with the presence of vaping products online especially on social media platforms. Further clarity is asked for by these respondents from the Scottish Government on the proposals, as reflected in the quote below.
“We would welcome further clarity on online approaches to advertisement including use of social media, social media influencers, etc. Young people are particularly exposed to these forms of media. Advertisement via social media normalises activities / behaviour which could encourage initiation (and continuation) of vaping products amongst non-smokers. We would welcome further clarity on other online approaches to advertisement including promotions, giveaways”.
NHS Orkney Public Health
4.3 Question 3 – In-store promotional displays
The Scottish Government believe that in-store promotional displays should be banned so they are not used as an alternative means to advertise these products.
Do you agree with the proposal that in-store promotional displays should be banned?
Table A3 (Appendix A) provides the quantitative response to Question 3.
Respondent views are mixed, however, more do not support the proposal:
- Less than half of all respondents agree with the Scottish Government proposal that in-store promotional displays should be banned so they are not used as an alternative means to advertise these products (44.8%). The level of support among organisation respondents is higher than among individual respondents (61.9% and 43.8% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes local government and health organisations.
- Over half of respondents disagree with the proposal (53.8%). Individuals are more likely than organisations to disagree (54.8% and 35.7% respectively). Among organisation respondents this includes the tobacco industry, vaping sector, and other organisations (e.g. those that sell tobacco and vaping related products).
As outlined in Section 3, a technical problem with the Citizen Space website meant not all respondents were able to provide a response to the open-ended question at Question 3. The qualitative analysis is limited to non-Citizen-Space submissions.
4.3.1 Respondents who agree with the proposal
There are some comments from those who agree with the Scottish Government proposal that in-store promotional displays should be banned so they are not used as an alternative means to advertise these products (15 responses in total). All comments except three are from health organisation respondents.
The main theme is outlined below.
Theme 1: Reduced visibility and accessibility of vaping products
Health organisation respondents (and others e.g. some individuals, local government) feel that a ban on in-store promotional displays would minimise the “visibility” and “accessibility” of vaping products “with attractive flavours, names and designs”, including those advertised with some “energising property” to children, young people, and adult non-smokers. Support is expressed by these respondents for plain packaging and point of sale bans to “bring parity with tobacco products” – “Point of sale legislation has reduced tobacco brand recognition among children and young people”.
These respondents also suggest that a ban on in-store promotional displays would support a reduction in “subliminal advertising” to young adults and adult non-smokers and may discourage their uptake by non-smokers.
“Disposable vapes are, in the main, prominently displayed on the counter, next to the till, or in the space previously reserved for tobacco gantries. Displays are slick, eye-catching, and attractive to young people. The packets themselves are brightly coloured and attractive. These in-store promotional displays would be better dealt with by a general display ban in the same way cigarettes are organised. The prominent in-store display of vapes exposes young people and non-smokers to these products and portrays them as a cool lifestyle choice”.
Aberdeen City Council
Wider comments, but not raised by many respondents, include the following:
- ASH Scotland would like to see a “unified regulatory framework across all tobacco, recreational nicotine, nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarette and vaping products, and related accessories”.
- Points raised in the NHS Lanarkshire (South Lanarkshire Focus Group) include: a) whether the proposal would lead to the closure of vaping specialist shops; b) some feel that vaping products should not be promoted in-store at all. Others disagree with this on the basis that it would reduce visibility of the products to adult smokers.
- NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde note the following point – “…should a nicotine containing vape product be granted a MHRA licence and be able to be identified as a stop smoking medication rather than a lifestyle product, promotion should be in line with other MHRA licenced products as long as the target group for advertising is clear”.
4.3.2 Respondents who disagree with the proposal
There are also some comments from those who disagree with the Scottish Government proposal that in-store promotional displays should be banned so they are not used as an alternative means to advertise these products (10 responses in total). Most of the comments are from the vaping sector and tobacco industry.
Many of the points raised by the vaping sector and tobacco industry echo those reported to earlier consultation questions. As such, these have been briefly summarised below:
- These respondents consider there to be an existing strong existing regulatory framework.
- Further regulation is considered disproportionate by these respondents.
- Respondent concern around implementation and enforcement of the proposals.
- There is support for evidenced based and effective regulation.
- These respondents hold the view that further restrictions could worsen perceived existing high levels of misinformation on the relative harms of vaping and smoking.
Wider points raised
The following points are raised, but not by many respondents:
- The proposal could “severely restrict the ability of vaping products to compete with combustible cigarettes and with other vaping products”, and disproportionately impact smaller manufacturers, small brands and overseas manufacturers.
- The vaping sector note support for the introduction of a “comprehensive test purchasing scheme for all areas of the UK” and that it is in favour of establishing an “Approved Retailer Scheme in partnership with vape trade associations”.
- A vaping sector organisation believes that existing restrictions that limit the set of permissible circumstances but do not ban in-store promotional displays should remain in place.
4.3.3 Further clarity on the proposal
There is a call from organisation respondents for further information, clarity, and guidance from the Scottish Government regarding the proposal to ban in-store promotional displays:
- Further clarity on what is meant by “in-store promotional displays” and how this would apply to a range of store types (e.g. supermarkets, convenience stores and small retailers, vaping shops and specialist retailers, pharmacies).
- How restrictions would apply to a varied range of promotional displays (e.g. point of sale, checkouts and end-of-aisle product displays, free standing display units, stand-out shelving, window displays, promotional stalls in shops/shopping centres).
- Further details are requested on whether there would be any exemptions within specific settings and what guidance would be provided.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback