20 Years On Tobacco Company Ads Back On British TV

April 29, 2022 2 min read

History of Tobacco Advertising

If we take a brief step back in time it was 1962 when the Royal College of Physicians first called out to restrict tobacco advertising. Soon after in 1965, only 3 years later, all television commercials for cigarettes were banned.

The year 1971 was to be the next milestone in the clamp down on the tobacco industry when an agreement between the government and the big tobacco industry lead to the health warnings that we still see on cigarette packets, albeit not to the same graphical nature, was made mandatory informing smokers of the deadly risks associated with smoking.

British TV Sees First Tobacco Company Ad Nearly 50 Years On

Fast forward to 2014 and the very first ad by a tobacco company is being shown on British TV. The television ad which advertises for Vype, BAT’s (British American Tobacco) new electronic cigarette, will be broadcast on British TV over the following next two months.

Electronic cigarettes have been rapidly growing in popularity which has leaded some analysts to predict that they could surpass tobacco in the developed markets in as short as a decade.

Cigarette & Tobacco Advertising Regulations

New e-cig adverts have come under fire as health campaigners argue that they normalise and even glorify smoking which would be detrimental to all the years of hard work that has been put in to limiting and trying and get people to quit.

Due to this the Advertising Standards Authority has already made plans to launch a full public consultation on electronic cigarette advertising by the end of the month. At present it is seen that e cigs might be a loop hole in strict advertising codes. When the original advertising laws were decided regarding this subject the laws were not created with e-cigarettes in mind.

The new advert by BAT is restricted by the current regulation that in the UK any product that even resembles a cigarette cannot be shown. For this reason BAT and any e-cig company that wish to market their product have to do so very cleverly – usually with the power of suggestion being their main marketing tool, as can be seen by the video at the top of the page.

More Big Tobacco Companies To Follow Suit

BAT isn’t the only tobacco company however to jump on board the e-cig train as other companies such as Imperial Tobacco are looking to e cigarettes as a way to recapture the decline in revenue seen by many smokers wishing to quit.

To me this makes perfect sense – if Tobacco firms are losing out to the e-cigarettes then it’s only reasonable to assume that they will try to enter this market as a way of damage limitation. The tobacco industry is worth around $700 billion compared to the electronic cigarette industry which is around $3 billion – however if the trend which has seen people take up e-cigs in a now very health conscious society continues, it will not be very long until the gap between these two  numbers is less significant. It just seems weird to me that the same companies who make and sell cigarettes are also starting to release other products that help people to get rid of them.