What Are You Missing? ad for electronic cigarettes set to challenge broadcasting rules, but what do you think?

by Lynn Connolly

E-lites-electronic-cigarette ad

Advertising cigarettes on TV has of course been outlawed for a number of years now, however, a new advertising campaign for a brand of electronic cigarettes is set to challenge the rules regarding advertising tobacco with its new TV ad that debuts on January 19.

The advert for E-Lites will feature comedian and Waterloo Road star Mark Benton as a smoker who misses his baby first steps when he goes outside for a cigarette.

Running with the tagline, “What are you missing?” the campaign will air on various channels including ITV, Channel 5 and Sky, and we’ll also see the ad in magazines and online.

Of the ad, the Radio Times states, “The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which investigates complaints about ads, said that its rules on the advertising of tobacco products also extend to other items that imply a reference to smoking or are seen to promote it…

A spokesperson said, “The primary intent of [our] rules is… to ban advertisements for tobacco products in line with the various pieces of legislation in this area…

“We also have rules restricting products similar to tobacco products, references to smoking or tobacco products and the promotion of smoking in general.

“As it stands, it is our view that the advertising of e-cigarettes on TV is likely to be severely restricted owing to [these rules], so the kinds of claims and images that could be used to promote them is incredibly limited.”

The ASA spokesperson added that the E-Lites ad could prove to be a “landmark case” that could see a change to – or clarification of – regulations.


The ASA representative said, “There are discussions on-going in government about whether e-cigarettes that contain nicotine should be licensed as smoking cessation therapies ie, whether they are medicines.

“We are currently waiting for The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to come to a conclusion…

“If the MHRA decides to go down the licensing route, then existing products will have to apply for a marketing authorisation (similar to any other medicine); products without a license would not be allowed to advertise at all.”

However, E-Lites marketing director Trevor Field defended the product, and the ad, saying that it could help smokers to quit.

He said, “We appreciate that it is better to quit smoking altogether but there are over 10 million smokers in the UK, many of whom are unwilling or unable to quit.

“E-Lites offer a harm reducing alternative and we know that we can give smokers a healthier, cheaper and more socially acceptable option to tobacco cigarettes.

“The TV ad is a great way to communicate that message.”

electronic cigarette

And Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said that ASH broadly supports the view that electronic cigarettes can help smokers quit.

She said, “In principle, we support smokers switching to smokeless nicotine products because it’s the smoke that kills you, not the nicotine…

“Although nicotine is potentially addictive, it is not toxic or harmful on its own. We do think that these products should be regulated…

“But there are never any circumstances when it’s better to smoke than to use non-tobacco, non-smoke nicotine products.

“The NHRA… is looking at how it can regulate [e-cigarettes] because it felt by forcing these products off the market it might lead smokers into going back to smoking.”

So what do you think? Is it right or wrong to advertise electronic cigarettes?

After all, there are ads for nicotine patches and other nicotine replacements on TV already, but then again, they aren’t particularly ‘sexy’ ads, while this image for E-Lites arguably is…


Let us know what you think but for now, here’s a look at E-Lites featuring on Daybreak…



Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.


  1. Peter on January 20, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Electronic cigarettes use nicotine – an addictive poison that may cause cancer.

    Already banned in some countries – they are unregulated in the UK !

    The Nicotine Industry is unscrupulous, wanting nothing less than to recruit a whole new generation of nicotine addicts, and to have everyone buying and using these devices.

    To the NI each addicted lifelong customer is worth maybe £80k – £120k – before the customer finally dies of their addiction or forces them self to stop smoking.

    The NI is out to make money – regardless of public health.

    The NI will use subtle and devious marketing tactics to recruit new addicted customers – such customers are worth a lot of money to the NI.

    Every time one of these things is smoked in public subliminal advertising takes place and it normalises smoking – sending out a message to young people and naive people that it is ok to smoke.

    The NI would love these devices to be the next schoolyard craze, with children addicted to pocket money priced candy flavoured nicotine which they buy and smoke on the way to and from school, smoking them at bus stops and in playgrounds and classrooms; becoming lifelong addicted customers who potentially will move on to harder drugs.

    The NI will do whatever they can get away with to recruit an addicted lifelong customer, and their uncontrolled lifestyle marketing is most effective with naïve consumers (aka school children).

    These devices should be controlled identically to tobacco cigarettes, and come under exactly the same smokefree regulations and control as tobacco cigarettes – and available as a cheaper, possibly less dangerous, alternative.

    It seems that Deborah Arnott of ASH has sold out and believes that e-cigarettes should not be subject to the smokefree regulations. The latest Jan 2013 ASH briefing on electronic cigarettes could have been ghostwritten by the NI as a promotional flyer. Hang your head in shame Ms. Arnott.

    If you feel as I do – take action now and make a fuss about them so that we don’t sleepwalk back into the smoking society of the 1950 s – write to your local MP etc. etc.

  2. Jo on January 20, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Are you enraged that smokers wishing to quit may actually have the tenacity to look like they may be enjoying themselves whilst doing it. Quitting is a good thing so why the miserly stance on an aid to do so. Have you done as much gnashing of teeth over the patches or the gum Peter?.
    E cigarettes can also be sold without the nicotine which is why many wean themselves off in the long run.
    Give people the time and means to quit

  3. Peter on January 21, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Hi Jo.

    No, not enraged. Totally agree with what you about quitting being a good thing.

    Patches and gum are not visible so don’t ‘self advertise’ to people who are particularly impressionable or naïve and don’t encourage others to start breathing an addictive poison. And patches and gum don’t pollute the air that others breathe, so are reasonably unharmful to others.

    Yes, I have seen some smokers look like they’re enjoying themselves, no different really to the non-smokers who they were with. But I have never felt the need to attribute their ‘enjoyment’ to the fact that they were smoking – I thought it was just that they were enjoying the pleasant company of the other non-smokers !

    But maybe you are correct when you say that smokers wishing to quit are enjoying themselves whilst doing it – they are probably thinking of how much more happier they will be, just like their non-smoker friends, when they do finally quit !

    Don’t get me wrong though – I don’t think they should be banned. Just treat them no differently to tobacco cigarettes regarding age restrictions on purchase, advertising and display, and not being smoked in public areas etc.

    People I’ve spoken to who have or do use these devices are quite comfortable with such an approach – they realise that starting smoking was just about the worst thing they ever did and, not wishing to encourage others to start smoking, by being seen smoking in public, are quite happy using these devices in the privacy of their own homes.

    This is an interesting link about smoking electronic cigarettes that you might like to look at:

    Notably, in that report, it states that there is a lack of scientific evidence that electronic cigarettes help people to quit smoking. And also, the devices are not actually being marketed as such.

    At their annual BMA conference in 2012, public health doctors agreed that electronic cigarettes should be included in the ban on smoking in public places. The BMA have also stated that there is a lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed studies to support the use of e-cigarettes as a safe and effective nicotine-replacement therapy. And, furthermore, these devices may undermine efforts to prevent or stop smoking by making cigarette use seem normal in public and at work.

    See the link below:


    And just to borrow a bit from that ASH report:

    “Public interest law professor John Banzhaf of ASH, argues that there is no possible justification for subjecting the great majority of Americans who are non-smokers to the totally unnecessary risks posed by a mixture of toxins and carcinogens. Even if e-cigarettes did help some smokers quit — which the FDA denies — “it’s your monkey, keep him off my back.” “

    Hope that helps.

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