Electronic cigarettes consultation – our views 16

The Scottish Government is planning a new Public Health Bill that will include measures to reduce the attractiveness and availability of tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

The Bill will be informed by responses to the Consultation on Electronic Cigarettes and Strengthening Tobacco Control, which ended on 2 January.

Like many others in the health community, we’ve made our submission to the consultation, outlining our views on a list of potential measures to help Scotland’s goal of achieving a tobacco-free generation by 2034.

How we deal with the growing and changing landscape of electronic cigarette use is one of the key issues.

Should we set a minimum age of 18 for the sale of e-cigarettes? Should it be a criminal offence for adults to buy e-cigarettes for children (so-called proxy purchase)? How should we protect young people from inappropriate advertising and promotion of the devices?

And is there a need for a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces to mirror the current smoke-free legislation that applies to tobacco?

ASH Scotland doesn’t take a simplistic view either “for” or “against” electronic cigarettes. Our interest is in helping people improve their health and so we welcome harm reduction as a principle. We believe that ‘vaping’ will prove to be less harmful than smoking – but not harmless, as some supporters suggest.

Many types of e-cigarettes contain nicotine and the market for any addictive product should be regulated, because the companies involved – some of them part of the tobacco industry – are under strong commercial pressure to recruit new generations of customers.

We believe that nicotine products are generally not appropriate for children and young people. So we support the proposal to set the minimum age of sale for these products at 18.

We’re in favour of extending this restriction to all such devices capable of containing nicotine, to fit with the approach of targeting products at adult smokers only. We also agree that the sale of e-cigarettes and refills from unstaffed vending machines, and proxy purchase of the devices and refills, should both be prohibited.

Controls on marketing and promotion are also important. “Glamorous, cool and sexy” is how teenagers described advertising posters for e-cigarettes during a recent discussion on children and smoking held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health at Westminster.

We believe that electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing products should not be advertised in ways or through channels that could make them appealing to non-smokers. In particular they should not be promoted in a way that could reasonably be expected to make them seem attractive to children and young people.


However, we do want smokers to be informed of less harmful alternatives. Advertising at point of sale, particularly at the tobacco counter, could be a useful way to do that. As there is no simple way to address e-cigarette promotion we support the development of bespoke regulations especially tailored for e-cigarettes.

The Scottish Tobacco Retailers Register should be extended to include those selling e-cigarettes. The feedback from trading standards bodies has been that that register – a list of those who sell tobacco in Scotland – has helped with enforcement of regulations, with understanding the market and with providing support and advice to retailers.

A legislative ban on using e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, however, would require clear scientific consensus that harm from “second-hand” e-cigarette emissions is likely. That’s not the situation to date, so we don’t consider a blanket ban is appropriate at this time.

A number of organisations, from local authorities, to pub chains and transport providers, have brought in e-cigarette bans. We support the right of organisations and venues to develop their own policy on these devices and would be in favour of the provision of official guidance and information to help them develop the best policy for their own situation.

We must take advantage of the “wins” that e-cigarettes can provide for smokers. Anything that helps people to cut down and quit tobacco use is good news.

But the best way of ensuring e-cigarettes make a positive contribution to public health and help take us towards a generation free from tobacco is to have a regulated market – we cannot simply trust that commercial interests will do the right thing.

The Scottish Government proposals can and should help take us towards that goal.



  1. Caution–
    “….. is to have a regulated market – we cannot simply trust that commercial interests will do the right thing.”
    An over-regulated market produces a boring product, which will collapse it into failure of purpose, A market which is minimally regulated for safety will succeed and save lives in the doing. Commercial interest is in having a large market, with non-boring products, which are safe and do what they are designed for. This cannot be done with design, flavour and size restrictions.

      • Agreed. They are reliable now, but the safety requirements seem to be contentious.

        I would suggest following Dr Farsalinos’ suggestions re Liquid contents on his blog at http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php He suggests banning certain chemicals from flavourings and has done the research to back it up.

        Battery safety whilst important is best left to trading standards, and their rules are effective when adhered to by all.
        Note:- All the problems – apparently so far – in this field have caused by substandard chargers not adhering to CE regs, or mismatching batteries and adaptors. There have been no instances to date of batteries with built-in charging circuitry going critical.

        Have you looked into the fourth generation of e-cigs, which are just coming out now ? The dna40 mod with temperature control, which prevents formation of any nasties in the first place, is looking to be a very important evolvement.

      • Do you have any evidence that they’re not safe or reliable enough already? The problem is that most of the proposed regulations wipe out all the most effective products and replace them with bland ones that aren’t likely to work. Taking a medical approach seems to be the root cause of this; health professionals see effectiveness as delivering a consistent dose, while users want something that looks good, is pleasant (even fun) to use and lets them express their creative side. Unless regulators start listening to us, and STOP listening to clownish ideologues like John Ashton, Martin McKee, Stan Glantz and Anna Gilmour, regulation is almost certain to be a disaster.

  2. Maybe the UK should do as I believe France has done and that is to disallow the sale of electronic cigarettes products that are owned by the tobacco industry, this would take away the argument the that tobacco industry is under commercial pressure to recruit new customers. I am not under the illusion the the real electronic industry is not is there not to make money, it is a business after all, but it cannot be charged with the duplicity of selling one product that is known to be harmful and one that is known to be less harmful. Proper consumer regulation to ensure the safety of the eliquid and the device is all that is required, The TPD as it stands is medical regulation in all but name, which are tighter regulations than the tobacco industry currently face to market tobacco cigarettes.

  3. I’m extremely concerned at your wishing a ban on proxy sales. Have you really thought of the unintended consequences of this? If one of your children were to be caught in the smoking trap, why would you not want to give them every chance available to them to get free? Whether you like it or not, E-cigs are proving to be one of the most effective ways of getting away from lit tobacco. It is an extremely disruptive technology and the risks are minimal compared to smoking. All too often I’ve heard “think of the children” and yet you want to deny them this possible lifeline, or criminalise their parents for trying to do their best by them? Please think again about this. E-cigs save lives – even children’s lives in certain circumstances.

    • Hi Andy,

      I appreciate what you’re saying about not wanting to criminalise a parent who is trying to help their child. We don’t want that either and that’s not what we’re trying to do.

      The idea that addictive products aren’t appropriate for sale to under 18s seems to be generally accepted. So banning sales to under 18s doesn’t appear to be too contentious. But to make this restriction work you also need to address the various loopholes that would be used to get around it – banning sales from unstaffed vending machines is an obvious one. While I appreciate that tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes are quite different subjects we do have the recent experience of seeing the ban on selling tobacco to under 18s easily bypassed because adults could just make the purchase for them. That’s why proxy purchase of tobacco cigarettes was banned.

      We have supported the proxy purchase proposal for e-cigs for the same reason – because not to have the proxy purchase rule makes it OK for any adult to buy the product for a child. You raise the specific scenario where a parent buys an e-cig to help their child stop using tobacco. But for legal action to be pursued it would have to be shown not only that illegal behaviour occurred but that it is in the public interest to proceed with prosecution. If you have a parent helping their child in this way I can’t see how that could be the case.

      The analogy I think of is that it is illegal to go onto a railway line. So if you are at the train station and a child falls onto the line in front of an advancing train, it is illegal to go onto the railtrack to pull them out – but you are not going to be prosecuted for doing that. And the scenario of rescuing a child from the railway line is best addressed by the public interest argument than by removing the general restriction on going onto the railway line.

      E-cig regulation is complicated and I’m sure we’ll have our different views in various areas, but I hope that clarifies where we’re coming from and why we’ve taken the stance we have.



      • This is all well and good John, but for most adults, it is of the utmost importance to be law abiding. This law would make a lot of adults think twice about trying to use e-cigarettes to save their kids lives, and some may well stop short at the fear of being taken to court for doing so. It’s all very well to say that it would be thrown out of court, but nobody wants to put themselves in a position of being arrested or charged with an offence, even if there is a good chance that the charge will be dropped or they will be admonished.
        We really do need to have this either binned or modified to the extent that parents KNOW that they are free to protect their children in this manner.

      • “banning sales from unstaffed vending machines is an obvious one.”

        Why not just do what Germany does, and have vending machines that require age validation by inserting a credit card or swiping a driving license? I certainly don’t see the sense in banning vending machines from pubs and nightclubs; kids shouldn’t be in there anyway.

      • John – while I get your railway line example, I’m afraid it doesn’t work in practice. People have been prosecuted in very similar circumstances. You can never assume that enforcement officers share your view on what is and isn’t prosecutable. Many simply prosecute as a matter of conviction and precedent. Do you really want to take a chance on a caring and pragmatic parent being dragged through the courts because they’ve done the right thing by their offspring? Why leave it to chance?

    • I agree. In the final analysis it’s up to parents whether their children use e-cigs, not the state. I don’t have any spawn myself but if I found out that one of my nieces had started smoking I’d buy her a good e-cig starter kit right away and encourage her to use it; I certainly wouldn’t take too kindly to being charged with an offence for doing so.

  4. I would take issue with this “Many types of e-cigarettes contain nicotine and the market for any addictive product should be regulated, because the companies involved – some of them part of the tobacco industry – are under strong commercial pressure to recruit new generations of customers.”
    Every study done so far shows the vast majority of new customers are smokers, the new generation meme is totally misleading. After 8 years of availability in the UK there’s no evidence whatsoever that never smokers are attracted to or becoming addicted to electronic cigarettes.

  5. seriously, you are endorsing a law and excusing yourselves with the notion that, when it suits, it will not be applied. That’s just hogwash. The courts deserve more respect, you can go to prison for that kind of attitude.
    Addictive products, containing Nicotene, can be handed out to 12 year old school children legally, they are NRT products.
    Criminalising parents for trying to help their children is supporting the tobacco industry, can you not see that. Your whole stance is so full,of contradictions, you must be spinning on the spot.

  6. “Safe and reliable” – laudable aims, you might think, but, frankly, couched in unrealistic terms. “Safe enough” is appropriate – and to a large degree, that is already the case *when UK a legislation with regard to battery safety and charger is implemented by trading standards*. Liquid safety – it being safe enough – is, again, already pretty much a given. Currently, the only real legislative acts required would be to confirm food hygiene standards for their production and a blacklist of known dangerous substances which need to be prohibited from thei formulation.
    While I take onboard the notion that, although a proposed legislative act would disallow parental proxy purchase, no prosecution would ensue upon detection, I find it difficult to trust that an over-zealous enforcement agency might not proceed anyway. We’re an exemption written into the proposal, I, like many, would rest easier.
    Similarly, I am uneasy about inclusion in a tobacco register. These are not tobacco products,many should not have the stigma associated with them. They need to be very widely available, and not subject to the paperwork registration would entail.

  7. Whilst i agree to some form of regulation the amount of regulation is the contentious issue here, ecigs are already covered by 17 or more EU regulations that have been working well for some time so why the need for more, most vendors have been adhering to an age sale of not to under 18s voluntarily but there will always be some that ignore the rules, take alcohol for example, it is illegal to sell to under 18s so why then is there an under age drinking culture within the UK which tv programs are always reporting on, regulations don’t seem to be working do they, how many times do you see the police confiscating alcohol from these youngsters, where are they getting it from? proxy purchases by a parent being made illegal as a way to get a child under 18 off tobacco is a stupid way to try and enforce the sales, is the Nicorette inhaler going to fall under this law as well because it is exactly the same thing as an ecig/vaporiser except it is controlled medically and more importantly, is available to over 12 year olds, will those parents fall foul of this new law.
    This seriously needs a good dose of looking at, I wouldnt want to be put in a position where helping my child to get of tobacco would make me a criminal, because letting them continue smoking is criminal as well.

  8. Are parents the only people allowed to care about their kids? What if an older sibling, aunt, uncle or just an older friend wanted to assist a young person to reduce the harm they may be doing themselves? Where do you draw the line? The public interest exception could be used by any number of people in a child’s life, and will probably be rejected in the case of most.

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