Research Report

E-cigarette marketing in the UK: evidence from adult and youth surveys and policy compliance studies


Stead M, Hitchman SC, Angus K, Aleyan S, Ford A, MacKintosh AM, Purves R, Mitchell D, Hammond D, Fong GT, Driezen P, Reid J, Craig L, Chung-Hall J & Cummings KM (2021) E-cigarette marketing in the UK: evidence from adult and youth surveys and policy compliance studies. Cancer Research UK. London.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, usually containing nicotine, to allow users to inhale the vapour. The evidence so far suggests they are far less harmful than smoking and can help people to quit smoking. However, as e-cigarettes are a relatively new product and their long-term effects are unknown, they should not be used by people who have never smoked, particularly young people. In 2016 and 2017, regulations were introduced to help ensure that e-cigarette advertising is socially responsible. This means protecting young people, minimising conflation between e-cigarettes and tobacco, and preventing uptake of e-cigarettes amongst people who don’t smoke or use nicotine. The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR) set rules on how e-cigarettes can be advertised and prohibited marketing in specific media channels. Subsequently, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) Code, updated in 2017, set out further advertising regulations in CAP Code Rule 22 and BCAP Code Rule 33. The overall aim of this report was to assess compliance with and the impact of the current UK e-cigarette marketing regulations. The UK Government is obliged to review and deliver a report on the TRPR within five years of the legislation being enacted, by May 2021. This report will help to inform the Government’s review. This report brings together two complementary studies to provide a description of e-cigarette advertising spend, advertising content, compliance with advertising regulations, and reported noticing and appeal of e-cigarette marketing. Study A (by the Institute for Social Marketing & Health) consisted of an analysis of e-cigarette advertising expenditure in the UK in 2019 and a detailed content analysis of a sample of advertising taken from the same year. Study B consisted of an analysis of survey data from the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC Project), which measured reported noticing of e-cigarette marketing by young people (16 to 19-year-olds) between 2017 and 2019, and adults (aged 18 and older) between 2016 and 2018 in a broad range of marketing channels.

Additional co-authors: James F Thrasher, Yoo Jin Cho, Catherine Cowell, Tim Coker, Sarah Bullock, Alizee Froguel, Jyotsna Vohra

FundersCRUK Cancer Research UK
Publication date31/03/2021
Publication date online31/03/2021
Publisher URL…t_march_2021.pdf
Place of publicationLondon