Hibernian football club has been blasted by health organisations over a sponsorship tie-up with an e-cigarette vaping company.
The club’s partnership with Edinburgh-based VPZ was announced today, with the club saying it was “delighted” to link with the firm, which has over 100 stores throughout the UK and until recently was known as Vaporized.
But anti-smoking groups warned that the deal potentially promoted vaping to young football fans.
It comes as the chair of Scottish Women's Football said the organisation will not accept sponsorships from gambling operators or alcohol brands.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of campaign group ASH Scotland said: “Some smokers find e-cigarettes helpful in quitting cigarettes completely but these products are not risk-free. There's still a lot we don't know about them and they are definitely not products for children, or that should be promoted around children."
In the announcement of the tie-up, Hibs cited a document released by Public Health England, which claimed that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. However, the Scottish Government’s consensus statement on the subject of e-cigarettes is far more cautious, warning that access to the product “needs to be controlled carefully".
It added: “They are not products for children or non-smokers. There is still a lot we do not know about e-cigarettes.”
Hibs is already sponsored by alcohol company Eden Mill and betting firm Marathonbet.
Michael Pentland, commercial manager at Hibernian FC, said: “We are delighted to partner with VPZ, who have intrinsic links within the local Leith area as well as being a national brand.”
Doug Mutter, director at VPZ, said: “As a business that was born in Leith, we are very excited to be launching our partnership with Hibernian Football Club. Vaping represents a huge public health opportunity and our goal will be to engage with fans to help them make the switch and quit smoking for good.”
He added: “Consumer education is crucial too and we will also be investing heavily in our people strategy to ensure our teams are equipped to help smokers understand the evidence based public health opportunity of vaping products so that their positive impact can be maximised.”
On its website, health charity Cancer Research UK states that it is "important that adequate protections exist to stop the promotion of e-cigarettes to young people and non-smokers".
George Butterworth, senior policy manager at the charity, added: “The evidence so far suggests e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking, but are only one method to quit and won’t work for everybody."
Speaking ahead of a cross party group meeting on Improving Scotland’s Health earlier this week, Vivienne MacLaren, chair of Scottish Women’s Football, said women’s football was positioning itself as a “clean sport”.
She said: “Scottish Women’s Football is clear that accepting alcohol and gambling sponsorship would be incompatible with our role in promoting healthy lifestyles amongst girls and women and supporting them to make positive choices.”
Financial details of the partnership have not been released.