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8 March 2014, 06:00
Calls to ban adverts that encourage young people to try electronic cigarettes are being back by a North East stop smoking service.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, said firms are exploiting the "haziness'' around the marketing of e-cigarettes and warned they could become a "gateway'' to children smoking normal cigarettes.
While it recognised that e-cigarettes have public health benefits in helping smokers quit, it said the rules around marketing need tightening. Otherwise, the current situation threatens to "undermine'' efforts to tackle smoking among children and young people.
The call comes after Cancer Research UK warned that children must be protected from the "unregulated marketing'' of e-cigarettes.
Its research in November of 1,000 pieces of marketing found brands were using social media, apps on mobile phones and group discount vouchers for e-cigarettes.
The charity said innovative packaging and flavours such as strawberry, apple and cherry also appeal to young people.
Katie Hall, chair of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said:
"It is totally unacceptable for e-cigarette advertisers to target children.
We cannot allow these devices to become a first step to long-term regular smoking for a generation of youngsters.
Manufacturers of e-cigarettes have repeatedly claimed they don't market to kids but their actions tell a vastly different story.
They are using the same sophisticated tactics long employed to sell regular cigarettes. These involve sweet flavours, social media, celebrity and competitions.''
The Committee of Advertising Practice has launched a public consultation on proposals to introduce new rules for the advertising of e-cigarettes.
Ailsa Rutter, Director of FRESH North East told Capital:
'We are concerned that some of the current advertising of electronic cigarettes could be attractive to children so we do support the need for tighter regulation around this.
We also welcome the fact that the Advertising Standards Authority are currently consulting on this and FRESH will be providing a response to that.
There's around 1.3 million current users of electronic cigarettes in the UK and this is made up of current or ex smokers.
There is little, if any, evidence at the moment of this 'gateway' effect on children.
But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be concerned though and what we do need is better monitoring and surveillance on this."