Derby County e-cigarettes deal criticised
Derby County should not have signed a sponsorship deal with an electronic cigarette company, a health professional claims.
Under the partnership, sample E-Lites e-cigarettes are being given to fans at Pride Park on some match-days.
The club says it is providing smokers with a "healthier and safer option".
But Tina Jones, tobacco control manager for Derbyshire Community Health Services, says not enough is known about the safety of e-cigarettes.'Helping fans'
Ms Jones said: "I think it is perhaps premature for Derby FC to be doing this - the best thing for people to do is to stop smoking altogether and to stop using nicotine."
She added: "There is growing evidence that young people are using these products and the last thing we want to do is start promoting smoking to young people.
"Sporting clubs and places associated with health should look very carefully at their sponsorship deals," she said.
What do Rams fans think of the deal?
One fan told BBC Radio Derby: "I don't think we know enough about them to see how much danger that they do to kids in particular, who find them attractive, and I just don't think that's quite right.
"I think Derby might have let themselves down a little bit there."
Another woman said: "Sport is meant to be an exercise. It's meant to be good for our bodies and I feel that there should be no representation of any cigarettes or alcohol. Even, you could go as far as to say, fast-food restaurants."
One man said: "I don't think it's a particularly bad thing. At the end of the day the kids don't look at the sponsor, they look at the team. It's all about money for the club. The more money, the better it is."
Another man said: "I don't think that any kind of association with smoking for a sports club is particularly positive and it's the right impression to be creating."
Some Derby County fans said the deal was positive and would help the club financially.
One man said: "I think it's a good idea because it gives me a chance, after half-time when I've had a beer, to sit in the second half, sit there and have a fag."
Director of the European Healthy Stadia Network, Matthew Philpott, said: "We are currently speaking to both the Premier League and Football League about issues concerning use and promotion of e-cigarettes at sports stadia.
He added: "From our perspective, whilst e-cigarettes may be useful in helping smokers give up traditional tobacco products, we cannot condone the marketing tactic of free e-cigarette giveaways at football stadia as this could stimulate new usage amongst non-smokers, or worse, stimulate interest amongst young people."
Campaigner Martin Dockrell, from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said they were concerned about marketing to children.
He said: "From 2016 these products will have to be licensed or removed from the market and that means they will be severely constrained in their use of give-aways and celebrity endorsement.
"If this partnership is to last then E-lites and Derby County will need to get their house in order and there is no time like the present."
However, Derby County's advertising and partnership executive, George Harborne, said: "Derby County are committed to helping fans who smoke lead healthier lifestyles.
"By offering E-Lites as an alternative we hope to encourage fans to take up a far healthier and safer option."
The e-cigarette brand's website states that electronic cigarettes are "the smoking alternative favoured by celebs" and features photos of celebrity users, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.
The EU banned sponsorship of sporting events by tobacco firms in 2005.
Sales of tobacco-free cigarettes have boomed worldwide since bans on smoking in public places were introduced.
Earlier this month, Merthyr Town FC announced that it would rename its stadium after an e-cigarette brand as part of a three-year deal.
Club officials said they had been trying to find a sponsor since fans took over following liquidation three years ago.