A HEALTH academic has criticised "harmful" e-cigarette marketing tactics and called for new guidelines to regulate the industry.

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at Stirling University, has said there is "cause for concern" in the way companies are pushing their products.

The professor, who is also deputy director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, warns that there are also "no controls" when it comes to alcohol adverts in the UK and she is now calling for tighter regulations across the advertising industry.

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E-cigarette companies are currently allowed to advertise their products within a regulatory framework, meaning they cannot make smoking cessation claims or target youngsters.

But Ms Bauld said there was still reason to be wary.

"I'd say that the evidence of marketing being targeted at children is mixed, but there's definitely a lot of it," she said. "It's a cause for concern and we need marketing regulations. The Advertising Standards Authority has a role to protect the public against harmful advertising.

"They brought in regulations last year to allow the public to complain about e-cigarette adverts. There have been a number of complaints and two adverts were forced to be withdrawn, so we do have some controls in place."

Her comments come after a Scottish Government-commissioned survey found that thousands of pupils had been exposed to e-cigarette marketing, with 60 per cent seeing the products for sale in shops, shopping centres or stalls.

Ms Bauld also criticised the alcohol industry's approach to advertising.

She said: "We have the same for alcohol adverts and it doesn't make a difference - they do all the things they aren't supposed to do.

"We need to crack down on the marketing of alcohol as there are no controls at all in Scotland and it's so prevalent all across our society."

New proposals may lead to e-cigarette adverts only being shown at the point of sale - in the shops where they can be bought.

Ms Bauld added: "I have a mixed view about it. I think you need some marketing of e-cigarettes to encourage the adults who want to stop smoking to try it.

"It's hard to know what to do - whether we take it all away or keep it going in order to aid those wanting to stop smoking.

"I'm in favour of e-cigarettes as a quitting tool for current smokers."

She also aired her concerns about e-cigarette companies being "bought up" by tobacco giants.

"One of the issues for us is that e-cigarette companies have been increasingly bought up by the tobacco industry," she said.

"Ideally they should be distributed by independent companies as the objective of the tobacco industry is to keep people smoking. We want to try and keep a lid on some of the tobacco companies' involvement."

John Watson, deputy chief executive at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, agreed that the marketing is showing a disturbing trend.

"We're concerned at some of the marketing we've seen around e-cigarettes," he said. "It's hard to walk down the street without seeing adverts and some of them are reminiscent to old tobacco adverts.

"We should restrict marketing that's going to encourage young people to smoke but there is also the potential to help current smokers stop."

Experts are yet to conclusively determine the health risks of e-cigarettes, which have helped some smokers quit but still contain the highly addictive substance nicotine.

One in 20 adults now uses e-cigarettes, according to the latest Scottish Health Survey.

Half of current cigarette smokers reported using e-cigarettes and some 14 per cent of ex-regular smokers used an e-cigarette. The most common methods used to quit smoking were nicotine patches (36 per cent) and e-cigarettes (32 per cent).