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Study on e-cigarette advertising perception by teenagers and adult smokers in the Netherlands

An original study [1] on the impact of e-cigarette advertising was published on December 21, 2015 in the International Journal of Drug Policy by an international research consortium of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (ITC) leaded by the Dutch Department of Health Promotion and the Department of General Practice (CAPHRI- Maastricht University) and comprising the Dutch Alliance for a Smokefree Society (The Hague), the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston USA), the Department of Communication (ASCoR- University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands), Trimbos Institute (Netherlands Institute for Mental Health and Addiction, AS Utrecht), the School of Public Health and Health Systems (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), the Nigel Gray Fellowship Group (Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, Australia).

“the advertisements did not seem to have adverse effects on disapproval of smoking and smoking cessation.”

The study focusses on years 2013 and 2014 during which e-cigarette advertising perception by teenagers and adult smokers and behaviors of adult smokers were analyzed, based on two national waves of the International Tobacco Control (ITC) survey in the Netherlands. The results shows that awareness of Dutch smokers to advertisements on e-cigarette increased sharply, along with the use of e-cigarette but without any significant coupling between them. According to the authors, “the advertisements did not seem to have adverse effects on disapproval of smoking and smoking cessation.”

In 2012, a Court ruling reclassified e-cigarettes as consumer products and advertisements were allowed again.

The ITC Netherlands National Report indicates that e-cigarettes have been available for purchase since 2007. In 2008, the Dutch government claimed that e-cigarettes containing nicotine should be (at least temporarily) classified as medicines, awaiting a decision on the level of the European Union. This approach was accepted by the Dutch Courts. A ban on advertising of e-cigarettes followed the decision, but it was still legal to sell them. At the same time, the government released a public warning about e-cigarettes, indicating that not enough information was available about the innocuousness of e-cigarettes. In 2012, a Court ruling reclassified e-cigarettes as consumer products and advertisements were allowed again.

In the context of the implementation of the EU TPD, substantial restrictions on advertising will be enforced by May 2016. The recent changes in the legal frame on advertising is an opportunity to evaluate the potential impact of future regulation.

[1] Nagelhout, G. E., Heijndijk, S. M., Cummings, K. M., Willemsen, M. C., van den Putte, B., Heckman, B. W., … & Borland, R. (2015). Noticing e-cigarette advertisements and associations with use of e-cigarettes, disapproval of smoking, and quitting smoking. Findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Netherlands Survey. International Journal of Drug Policy.