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Electronic cigarettes challenge anti-smoking efforts

A smoker puffs an e-cigarette in Germany, which has moved to regulate them like pharmaceuticals ,A new TV advert for a brand of electronic cigarettes marks the first time in decades cigarettes of any sort have been promoted on US television. Anti-smoking campaigners fear the rapid growth of tobacco-free cigarettes could undermine years of successful anti-smoking efforts.
A handsome actor poses and struts on a beach in a stylishly shot black-and-white television spot. He puts the cigarette to his lips, takes a puff, and exhales a rich flume.
"Blu lets me enjoy smoking without it affecting the people around me, because it's vapour not tobacco smoke," says Stephen Dorff, the scruffy heartthrob star of The Immortals.
"We're all adults here, it's time we take our freedom back."
The launch this autumn of the advert for blu eCigs marks a turning point in the fast-growing US market for electronic cigarettes, which use an electronic mechanism to warm a liquid nicotine solution and release mist into the lungs.
Most living Americans had never before seen a cigarette advertised on television - they were banned in 1971.
But the electronic cigarettes fall outside that law, since they contain no tobacco. That is just one way they fall into what one anti-smoking campaigner calls a regulatory "no man's land".
The Blu ad - and a few predecessors
Electronic cigarettes have exploded in popularity in the US since they first appeared on the market in 2007. Blu is just one brand, with NJOY, SmokeAnywhere, Joye eGo, and many more also available.
Their appeal stems from perceptions - as yet untested by science - that they are safer than tobacco cigarettes and can even help smokers kick the habit.
And because they contain no tobacco, the e-cigarettes seem exempt, for now, from ever-stricter public smoking bans.
Since their emergence onto the US market, US sales have risen from $5m (£3.1m) to an estimated $250m, according to UBS estimates.
Amid the explosive growth, smoking opponents are eyeing the devices warily.
"We know that smoke-free laws encourage smokers to try to quit," says Danny McGoldrick, vice-president of research at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.