The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is expected to rule in favour of clamping down on e-cigarette advertising this week, despite a recent report by UK doctors that urged promoting the product for public health reasons.
The ECJ will rule on Wednesday on a final attempt by tobacco and e-cigarette manufacturers to ameliorate legislation that will come into force under the European Tobacco Products Directive later this month.
If the companies lose, which is the expected outcome, they will have a year to adapt to the changes, reported the Sunday Times.
Under the new legislation, advertising e-cigarettes will be banned in print, on television and radio, while other rules on the strength of nicotine liquids and flavours will also be introduced.
Last week a landmark report by doctors' body the Royal College of Physicians concluded e-cigarettes should be "encouraged" and the public should be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.
The report also found e-cigarettes are not a gateway to traditional smoking and are widely used by traditional tobacco consumers to transition away from smoking.
Members of the tobacco and e-cigarette industry, as well as analysts, have hit back at the constraints on a non-tobacco product being subjected to stringent advertising and other product regulations.
"We believe that e-cigarette legislation should ensure product quality and customer safety while not hampering the innovation, marketing or distribution freedoms that are vital to ensure this important category continues to grow. Ensuring smokers are able to be made aware of the lower risk, alternative nicotine products available to them seems logical for any government interested in encouraging smokers to switch," an industry source told City A.M.
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As well as last week's report from the Royal College of Physicians, Public Health England has previously advocated for e-cigarettes, declaring in a study last year that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco.
"The new legislation for e-cigarettes basically copies the EU's tobacco advertising ban, which covers any media that can potentially cross borders. What it won't include will be point-of-sale, cinema or any advertising that is more contained – which isn't a great deal," said Chris Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
"It's a bad thing because you've got a product which is changing very rapidly and there's a huge amount of competition and innovation occurring, so it's a bad time to be restricting advertising. It's not going to be a complete black out, but I think it will be a major constraint on commercial free speech," he added.