A proposed ban on advertising electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) in Scotland could “pose significant harm” to Scottish citizens by preventing tens of thousands of tobacco smokers from quitting, the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) has warned.

In its Health Tobacco, Nicotine and Care Scotland Bill, the Scottish government calls for “a stronger legislative footing” that is similar to the restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion.

This would include restrictions on all domestic published advertising such as adverts on billboards, bus stops, vehicles, posters, leaflets, banners and sponsorship.

The European Tobacco Products Directive, set to be enforced this May, already requires all EU member states to ban cross-border advertising and promotion of nicotine-containing e-cigs, including bans on television and radio broadcasting.

The Scottish government believes that additional restrictions on domestic published advertising and sponsorship would “reduce visibility and attraction” of non-medicinal nicotine containing e-cigs to under 18s and adult non-smokers.

Point of sale displays in shops would be exempt.

“The Scottish Government considers that allowing advertising at the point of sale and certain displays balances the need to protect non-smokers, especially children and young people, whilst recognising the harm reduction potential of nicotine vapour products (NVP) for smokers who might benefit from being made aware of NVP availability,” it says.

However, the ECITA claims that the ban could increase confusion about the different comparative harms of e-cigs and tobacco products, “leading people in Scotland coming to believe the harms are the same, and that electronic cigarettes are tobacco products.”

“If this ban results in only 1% of Scotland’s 974,000 smokers failing to quit, the cost to Scotland’s economy in shortened lives would be between £579m and £1.5 bn. If the ban results in only 5% of Scotland’s smokers failing to quit, the cost of their shortened lives would be between £2.9 bn and £7.5 bn,” it says.

The ECITA is urging the Scottish Government to re-examine the case for banning published advertising of vaping products.

The same bill will also bring new rules governing the sale of e-cigs to minors, and a ban on proxy purchasing, into force towards the end of 2016.