BMA, ARM, and alphabet soup

The next few days are going to be more than a little interesting. In case you weren’t aware, the BMA are holding their annual representatives meeting at the BT Convention Centre in Liverpool. Should we be worried ? Of course we should, the BMA aren’t exactly known for their openness or positivity to e-cigarettes.

There are six motions in the ARM agenda, five of which according to the full agenda document are unlikely to be reached. That then excludes motions 233-235, 239 and 240. That leaves motion 289, proposed by Waltham Forest. But, in all likelihood at least one of the shaded motions will be debated; after all the topic of e-cigarettes is such a contentious issue and we know full well the stance of some of the upper echelons of the BMA when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping.

When these agenda items first appeared in my Twitter timeline this morning (thanks Lorien) there was plenty to be upset about, especially when this one popped up:

So why am I so bothered by this? Let’s take a peek at each motion:

233. Motion by LONDON REGIONAL COUNCIL: That this meeting is alarmed by the increasingly visible advertisements for e-cigarettes which appear to blur the lines between the act of vaping and smoking a cigarette, and:-
i) believes that the current interim regulations governing this advertising are not fit for purpose;
ii) recognises that despite stronger EU regulations coming into effect in May 2016 preventing advertising via television, radio, print media and the Internet, other forms of advertising (including domestic sporting events, billboards, posters, direct-mailings, advertising on merchandise and cinema advertising) will still be permitted unless regulated at a national level;
iii) calls on UK governments to introduce regulations covering these other forms of advertising from May 2016.

So the London Regional Council are “alarmed” by ‘increasingly visible advertisements’. Now unless I’m very much mistaken, there are currently two Codes of Advertising Practice that apply to e-cigarette advertising. BCAP 33 and CAP 22. Both of which are pretty tough, specifically sub-section 2 of both codes state quite clearly:

Advertisements must contain nothing which promotes any design, imagery or logo style that might reasonably be associated in the audience’s mind with a tobacco brand.

Of course, sub-section three states:

Advertisements must contain nothing which promotes the use of a tobacco product or shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light. This rule is not intended to prevent cigarette-like products being shown.

So, by the rules as defined by the ASA, e-cigarettes cannot be advertised in a manner that resembles traditional cigarettes, nor can they be advertised in a way that can be associated with a tobacco brand. Oh, I forgot about the number one rule in both codes:

Marketing communications for e-cigarettes must be socially responsible.

My question is, what is so “alarming” about socially responsible advertising that is not allowed to mimic or associate with traditional tobacco products? So far there have been several advertisements banned as they do not meet the criteria. I see no alarmist stuff here. As for the EU regulations coming into effect in May 2016:

TPD_Art20-5

Pretty much any and all advertising, unless you are a professional in the trade of e-cigarettes is prohibited. So the “concerns” raised in motion 233 points 2 and 3 are completely moot.

234. Motion by TOWER HAMLETS DIVISION: That this meeting believes that e-cigarette use can be a portal to tobacco use and is alarmed by the increasingly visible advertisements glamourising “vaping”. This meeting calls for e-cigarette advertising to be subject to the same restrictions as tobacco advertising under both EU and UK law.

Sigh, more of the same “alarming” advertisements “glamourising” vaping. It is a little disappointing when many vendors have to jump through the multiple hoops to get their adverts published/broadcast according to the relevant CAP codes only to have a trade union claim the ads are “alarming” and “glamourising”. But that isn’t the worst thing about this particular motion.

It seems they’ve decided to drop the whole “gateway” theory and instead call it a “portal” to tobacco. The utter failure to prove that vaping is a “gateway” now gives rise to a variant on the same theme, same claim just a different name. It is a little odd, though not particularly surprising that two areas state the same “ideals” in the agenda.

239. Motion by CONFERENCE OF PUBLIC HEALTH MEDICINE: That this meeting welcomes the government’s long-awaited decision to legislate for standard packaging of tobacco products and its ban on smoking in private vehicles carrying children, and congratulates the BMA for its role in bringing about these crucial public health reforms. However, this meeting recognises much work is needed to achieve the BMA’s goal of a tobacco-free UK by 2035, and we call upon the Department of Health to be bold in publishing a new tobacco control strategy that includes:-
i) measures to regulate and limit the sale of tobacco products, ultimately working towards a ban on the sale of cigarettes to people born after the year 2000, as proposed by the BMA in 2014;
ii) closer scrutiny of the tobacco industry through a mandatory requirement to report on their sales data, marketing strategies and lobbying activity;
iii) an annual levy on tobacco companies to provide funding for future tobacco control and smoking cessation services;
iv) stronger regulation of e-cigarette sales and usage.

My my, this sounds awfully familiar doesn’t it? Measures to limit the sale of tobacco products working towards a total ban on the sale of cigarettes to those born after the year 2000. Closer scrutiny of tobacco industry activities, an annual levy on tobacco companies to provide funding for future tobacco control and smoking cessation services. I wonder where they got that idea from?

This motion leaves the “stronger regulation” comment wide open for interpretation, no doubt that would include public spaces bans, and all other sorts of shenanigans that would make the TPD seem like a friend, *sigh*.

240. Motion by NORTH EAST REGIONAL COUNCIL: That this meeting, noting that smoking is a surrogate marker for poor academic achievement, financial hardship, and unemployment, congratulates the government in their drive to implement plain packaging on cigarettes, and calls on the BMA to lobby for:-
i) further harm-reduction strategies including subsidisation of nicotine replacement therapy;
ii) high tax on smoking products, with additional revenue ring-fenced for tobacco control;
iii) the provision of greater smoking cessation services to the most underprivileged members of British society to counter the inherent health inequality;
iv) further research on the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes.

Where do these folks get their ideas from? “Smoking is a surrogate marker for poor academic achievement”; isn’t that effectively saying “if you smoke, you’re going to fail at school”? How nice of them, what do they expect the BMA to do?

Lobby for further harm reduction strategies, including subsidisation of NRT, more tax on tobacco with the additional revenue to be used for tobacco control. Sounds horribly familiar to the US and the Master Settlement Agreement doesn’t it? Don’t they realise that as more and more people stop smoking the less funding they’ll have for tobacco control?

Oh and as a footnote they want “further research on the risks and benefits of electronic cigarettes”. Don’t go too much into detail will you? After all, it’s not as though there hasn’t already been hundreds of studies performed to date. Guess they didn’t get that memo.

289. Motion by WALTHAM FOREST DIVISION: That this meeting congratulates the previous government on its decision to support plain tobacco packaging, and exhorts politicians to investigate the advertising of E-cigarettes, particularly with reference to its appeal to young people.

This is probably the only item on the agenda relating to e-cigarettes that will get reached and of course it is all about advertising which is becoming a familiar refrain from most of those that are against vaping as either a cessation method (which vaping is not meant to be), or a harm reduction strategy. So what exactly are the rules for e-cigarette advertising?

  1. Marketing communications for e-cigarettes must be socially responsible.
    • Well that’s pretty much a given isn’t it? Be sensible when advertising your product.
  2. Marketing communications must contain nothing which promotes any design, imagery or logo style that might reasonably be associated in the audience’s mind with a tobacco brand.
    • If you do advertise, don’t use any imagery, design or logo style that resembles or can be associated with a tobacco brand.
  3. Marketing communications must contain nothing which promotes the use of a tobacco product or shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light. This rule is not intended to prevent cigarette-like products being shown.
    • Can’t be shown to promote any tobacco product (it’s an electronic vapouriser not a tobacco product) or show a tobacco product in a positive light. I dare say the FDA would love this particular rule as of course they deem vapor products as tobacco products.
  4. Marketing communications must make clear that the product is an e-cigarette and not a tobacco product.
    • Complete no-brainer. Clearly state that it is a vapor product.
  5. Marketing communications must not contain health or medicinal claims unless the product is authorised for those purposes bytheMHRA. E-cigarettes may be presented as an alternative to tobacco but marketers must do nothing to undermine the message that quitting tobacco use is the best option for health.
    • Make no medical or health claims about the use of the product, unless it’s got an MHRA license. Can be advertised as an alternative to tobacco, but nothing about THR.
  6. Marketers must not use health professionals to endorse electronic cigarettes.
    • Can’t use anyone from the medical profession in the ad. Kind of follows on from the point above.
  7. Marketing communications must state clearly if the product contains nicotine. They may include factual information about other product ingredients.
    • Another no-brainer. State if the product contains nicotine, optionally state any other ingredients.
  8. Marketing communications must not encourage non-smokers or non-nicotine-users to use e-cigarettes.
    • Don’t tempt non-smokers, it’s pretty clear that most of the ads that have been published/broadcast up to now have made that pretty clear. It’s a product for smokers, or existing users.
  9. Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18. People shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.
    • This one is open to a lot of interpretation, there needs to be an “adult” theme, so no shenanigans. Clear, factual information only.
  10. People shown using e-cigarettes or playing a significant role must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25. People under 25 may be shown in an incidental role but must be obviously not using e-cigarettes.
    • There are many young faced folks that are used in broadcast and print ads which does limit the field a little for vendors, so this one is a little over the top in my humble and ill-informed opinion
  11. Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise e-cigarettes if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age.
    • The context of the ad and the target audience must not be under 18, nor can any ad be placed if the audience consists of more than 25% of U18’s

In a nutshell, these rules don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for vendors to advertise in print, on the radio, on TV or anywhere else.  All you need to do is look at the number of rulings on adverts for e-cigarettes to know just how tough it is to actually advertise the product, yet these BMA members want tougher restrictions on advertising, or TPD level bans before the TPD is actually enforced.

Anyone else get the sense that these folk are being led well and truly astray?