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Smokescreen: Why e-cigarettes have no place on TV
[February 24, 2014]

Smokescreen: Why e-cigarettes have no place on TV

(M2 PressWIRE Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Birmingham City Council - Cllr Steve Bedser Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, voices his concern at the recent emergence TV ads for electronic cigarettes.

Picture the scene. You're watching your favourite TV programme and as we cut to the ad break, you're suddenly confronted with a commercial that promotes smoking as a smart lifestyle choice; soothing, relaxing or even sexy.

Inconceivable isn't it? Such lethally misleading ads were once commonplace on our screens but we now know the shocking truth about cigarettes, so quite rightly there would be a massive outcry.

And yet that's exactly what we're now seeing with electronic cigarettes as smoking, albeit the so-called healthier version, returns to our screens for the first time in 20 years. British American Tobacco recently launched a campaign for its Vype electronic cigarettes -- the first time a big tobacco company has marketed products on TV since cigar ads were banned in 1991.

SMOKING IS BACK ON TV! Is that something we're comfortable with in the UK or are we sleepwalking into a public health disaster, just as we did with cigarettes in the first place? Few public health issues currently polarise opinion quite like electronic cigarettes. This is one of the most written and talked about health topics of the day and, with the UK trade alone estimated to be worth in excess of 150 million, this debate is not going away anytime soon.

But does anyone truly know enough about this new technology? I would say we need a lot of answers before we can even begin to make an informed decision On the one side, those promoting these devices say they will save thousands of lives because it is the tar in tobacco that kills -- not the nicotine.

Others fear the return of TV ads from tobacco companies is part of a plot to re-normalise and re-glamorise smoking. They also quite reasonably insist that not enough research has been carried out into the long-term consequences of using e-cigarettes.

As the chair of Birmingham's Tobacco Control Alliance, I've been asked for my opinion about this on more than one occasion and, unusually for me, I've found myself taking a cautious line. I'm not really known for sitting on the fence but the simple fact here is that we need answers to some big questions and we need those answers now.

For starters: * How safe are e-cigarettes and what evidence is available to support their efficacy? * What is known about e-cigarettes and what is driving their rapid rise in popularity? * Will e-cigarettes 're-normalise' smoking and act as a gateway to tobacco use for a new generation? Not unreasonably, until we get many more answers, I would defer to the World Health Organisation , which last year stated that until an e-cigarette: 'is deemed safe and effective and of acceptable quality by a competent national regulatory body, consumers should be strongly advised not to use any of these products, including electronic cigarettes.' Until then: keep smoking off our screen please.

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