Big tobacco returns to British TV with BAT e-cig advert

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[February 18, 2014]   LONDON (Reuters) British American Tobacco will become the biggest tobacco company to show a television advert for e-cigarettes in Britain on Monday but will leave out any reference to 'smokers' to comply with laws which ban the promotion of tobacco products.

Soaring sales of e-cigarettes, metal tubes with batteries which heat nicotine-laced liquids into a vapor, have caught the eye of some of the world's biggest tobacco companies including BAT, Altria Group and Imperial Tobacco.

Advertisements for BAT's Vype e-cigs will use the strap line "pure satisfaction for vapers" on television but "pure satisfaction for smokers" online.

From 2100 GMT on Monday, British viewers will see the image of a man and woman running through a night-time urban streetscape, before passing through a wall of vapor promoting the product from Nicoventures, a BAT subsidiary.

A consultation into the rules governing e-cigarette advertising is due to be launched shortly by UK regulators governing print, online and broadcast advertising but BAT said the current rules left e-cigarette advertising unclear.

"In the absence of such standards, we have created an advert that we believe markets Vype appropriately and responsibly for its target audience," said Des Naughton, managing director of Nicoventures.

E-cigarettes are seen as less harmful than regular cigarettes and a useful way to wean smokers off their habits but critics say they can act as a gateway to nicotine addiction and that more research is needed on the health implications.

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Around 1.3 million people use e-cigarettes in Britain, most of whom are current or former tobacco smokers according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

Britain banned television advertising of cigarettes in 1965 with a 1991 EU directive outlawing the advertising of any tobacco products, including cigars and loose tobacco, on television.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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