E cigarettes could be available on the NHS by the end of the year with at least two companies one a subsidiary of British American Tobacco having already embarked on the process of obtaining licences from the medicines regulator.

The UK company Nicolites said its application was “well advanced” while BAT’s Nicoventures has also started the process, although decisions on whether their products are prescribed on the NHS will be made by local commissioning groups.

The status of “medicines” will give the companies commercial advantage and allow the e cigarette makers to market their product internationally, including in sponsorship deals, a move that will be banned for competitors not in the same bracket.

The news came to light as ministers in England prepare to ban the sale of e cigarettes to under 18s Wales and Scotland are likely to follow suit.

The Committees of Advertising Practice are also about to launch a consultation on new rules to cover e cigarettes, used by 1.3 million people in Britain last year. It will start later this month, with the framework likely to be in place by autumn, nearly two years after the first TV adverts for such products.

The applications to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority are a victory for the regulator’s determination to persuade manufacturers and importers to apply voluntarily for a licence and meet specific rules including on the amount of nicotine provided. They are continuing the process even though the European parliament defeated UK attempts to make medicinal licensing compulsory for e cigarettes last autumn,.

Existing anti smoking therapies such as gums, patches, an inhaler, and a mouthspray already have medicine licences and have been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which advises on good practice and value for money. Nearly 1.4m prescriptions for them were issued in England in 2012, but licensed e cigarettes would not need a separate Nice assessment.

Nikhil Nathwani, managing director of Nicolites, said the company was “well advanced in the product’s licencing” and hoped to achieve marketing authorisation some time this year. It was working closely with the government, the regulator and Nice. “This will be continued even after marketing authorisation has been achieved”, he said. Nicoventures has also made a licence application for a nicotine inhalation device to the MHRA.

A spokesman for BAT, which already has a standard e cigarette brand, Vype, on sale in Britain, said the company would like to see “a regulatory approach that puts consumer safety and product quality first, while allowing the appropriate level of innovation, marketing and distribution freedoms to allow this important new product category to grow.”

A spokesperson for Njoy, a big US cigarette company, which has also endorsed MHRA regulation, could not say whether an application was in progress, when contacted.

The readiness of big e cigarette players to go down the voluntary route for the expensive process of medicines approval is in sharp contrast to the position of the UK trade body for e cigarettes, Ecita, which has railed against the over regulation it claims will be introduced EU wide.

E cigarettes classed only as consumer products from 2016 will have to carry health warnings that nicotine is highly addictive. The draft EU directive, which has still to complete its legislative process in the coming months also contains new curbs on tobacco including health warnings covering nearly two thirds of cigarette packs.

This article was amended on 3 February 2014 because it is the Committees of Advertising Practice who are launching a consultation on new rules to cover advertising e cigarettes, not the Advertising Standards Agency as the original said.

E-cigarette critics worry new ads will make ‘vaping’ cool for kids : npr

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Electronic cigarette makers are getting bold with their advertising, using provocative new print ads and celebrity endorsements on TV. But public health advocates say these images are luring kids to hook them on nicotine.

The latest ad for blu eCigs, for example, which ran in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, features an itsy bitsy bikini bottom emblazoned with the company name and includes the tagline “Slim. Charged. Ready to go.” You don’t see the model’s face. The frame is from pierced belly button to mid thigh. It left Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, struggling for a delicate way to describe it.

“The advertising just hit a new high in terms of chutzpah,” says Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Using sex to sell cigarettes is nothing new, he says, and e cigarettes are pushing the envelope because they’re unregulated.

“If the Obama administration were serious about protecting the public on public health, they would immediately move to clamp down on the way e cigarettes are being advertised and apply the same rules that apply to cigarette advertising,” Glantz says.

Those rules include bans on sports sponsorships, cartoon characters, flavors and TV advertising.

Blu eCigs use a cartoon character named Mr. Cool on its website and YouTube. (Sound familiar? Some have noticed similarities between the ways the e cigarette industry has marketed its product and how traditional tobacco companies have. Here, a House committee compares the two.)

Vince Willmore with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says these messages attract youth especially the Sports Illustrated bikini ad.

“It’s going to appeal to teenage boys,” Willmore says.

Blu maker Lorillard has not responded to NPR’s requests for comment. Blu’s website asks if you are 18 to enter, and ads say “not for minors.”

Willmore says nonetheless, they re glamorize smoking and threaten to reverse decades of progress in preventing kids from getting hooked.

“Kids may view them as something they can use that’s not going to harm their health without realizing that they contain very addictive nicotine,” Willmore says. “For kids, these products could serve as a gateway to nicotine addiction and even to regular cigarette smoking.”

A New Frontier

Electronic cigarettes don’t burn tobacco. They heat a nicotine laced liquid and the smoker inhales vapor, not smoke.

After school at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., students say some of their peers use e cigarettes. And that unlike smoking, “vaping” is perceived as something new and cool.