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Electronic cigarette claims banned

Claims that a brand of electronic cigarettes are "completely harmless" have been banned after a watchdog ruled that they misled consumers.

The website for Nicolites, which sells electronic cigarettes containing a cartridge holding liquid nicotine, said the vapour inhaled and exhaled by users resembled smoke but was harmless.

Another claim said it was the tobacco in standard cigarettes that was harmful, and nicotine was mildly addictive but did not pose a health hazard.

But one reader complained that the claims were misleading and could not be substantiated.

Defending the website, Nicolites said the ingredients in its liquid, which were heated to create a vapour, had been tested in the UK and subjected to a toxicology risk assessment to confirm that they were all safe.

It said the same pharmaceutical grade nicotine that was used in products such as nicotine patches, gum and inhalators was used in its electronic cigarettes, and it could therefore claim that the nicotine would pose no health hazard.

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint, noting that the "evidence" submitted by Nicolites referred to individual ingredients and also to studies involving animals.

The toxicology risk assessment, which did not take the form of a controlled clinical trial, concluded that the cigarette was unlikely to pose a health risk "over and above that of cigarettes".

The ASA concluded: "We considered, however, the implication of the ad, via claims such as 'it's simply a completely harmless vapour' and 'poses no health hazard' was that the product would pose no risks to health at all. For the reasons given, we considered the claims that the product was not harmful had not been substantiated and we therefore concluded that the ad was misleading."

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and added: "We told Nicolites to ensure they did not claim products were harmless in future in the absence of adequate evidence."