commercial shows a leggy, high-heeled blonde blowing Flavor
Vapes e-cigarette vapor into a baby carriage as the words SAVE
HUMANITY materialize in the mist. The punch line appears in
her next exhalation: START VAPING.
an audacious sales pitch. Itís also a dig at cigarettes, for
which advertising has been steadily crushed, if not snuffed,
in this country to further the public-health goal of reducing
tobacco-related disease and death.
last 60 years, cigarette companies have been forced to stop
making health claims and add health warnings. Stop radio and
TV commercials, celebrity endorsements, event sponsorships,
movie product placements. Stop using billboards, cute cartoon
mascots and reassuring words like "light" and
rules donít apply ó at least, not yet ó to electronic
cigarettes, the battery-powered gizmos that convert liquid
nicotine into a vapor inhaled by the "vaper."
e-cigarettes are a public health bane, boon or some of both is
an evolving debate, with federal regulators proposing
restrictions that could take years to put into effect.
e-cigarettes are being marketed using all of the old forbidden
tactics, plus Internet-age innovations ranging from blogs and
tweets to YouTube and Vimeo videos.
only have e-cigarettes recapitulated virtually every
advertising method used by conventional cigarettes, theyíve
invented some new ones," said Robert Jackler, an expert
on tobacco advertising at the Stanford University School of
Medicine. "And they do stuff that cigarettes never dared,
like naming a product ĎLung Buddy.í"
Story, head of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarettes
Association, countered, "The ban on cigarette ads came
because they were not honest about the long-term effects of
tobacco use. E-cigarettes have no history of harm. The
advertising is not the problem. Weíre losing four million
people annually, directly related to tobacco smoking. Thatís
why vaping would change humanity. Thatís why we feel we can
support ads like" the Flavor Vapes commercial.
ó about the time e-cigarettes arrived in the United States
from China, where the devices were invented ó Jackler, a
head and neck surgeon at Stanford, and his wife, Laurie, an
artist, founded the Stanford Research into the Impact of
Tobacco Advertising. It has amassed a searchable online
archive of 26,000 ads, including 8,000 for e-cigarettes.
on that archive, Jackler and Stanford developmental
psychologist Bonnie Halpern-Felsher led a discussion of
e-cigarette advertising at a nicotine and tobacco research
conference recently in Philadelphia.
particularly pithy pitch, a Regal e-cigarette ad seen on TV
and in magazines, got lots of reaction. Set in a restaurant,
it portrayed a father ó e-cigarette in one hand and a beer
in the other ó toasting his sonís sippy cup. The tagline:
"Find Out How James Can Smoke Anywhere."
viewers at the session agreed, distilled crucial e-cigarette
inducements: safer than tobacco-burning cigarettes, no
second-hand smoke, no guilt, no shame, no banishment.
also agreed it was misleading.
public vaping have been passed in at least 26 states (New
Jerseyís is especially comprehensive; Pennsylvania has not
acted) and many municipalities, including Philadelphia.
are so new the safety of long-term use is unclear.
even detractors concede e-cigarettes are likely safer than
conventional cigarettes because they donít have many of the
toxic chemicals, such as carbon monoxide and tar, that are in
tobacco smoke. Still, critics worry that e-cigarettes might
lead people who have never smoked ó particularly children
ó to move on to the tobacco-burning kind.
say e-cigarettes, now a $2 billion market, can help smokers
cut down or quit. The evidence so far is conflicting, and
e-cigarettes are not approved for smoking cessation.
wouldnít know that from the marketing. Brand names include
Pure, Nicocure, and Quitters. Ads proclaim "Stop smoking
today," "Donít quit cold turkey." Some
feature supposed doctors or scientists endorsing an
e-cigarette brand ó reminiscent of ads from the first half
of the 20th century showing trustworthy physicians hawking
cigarettes and cigars. (L&M was "Just what the doctor
worrisome to public-health experts, e-cigarettes are
increasingly popular with youths. The U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention reported that 10 percent of teens used
e-cigarettes in 2012, more than double the rate just a year
industry groups support banning sales to minors, and many
jurisdictions, including New Jersey and Philadelphia, already
have done so.
has not stopped sales to youths.
94 percent of minors in a supervised study were able to buy
e-cigarettes online, easily bypassing age-verification
features on vendorsí websites, researchers reported recently
in JAMA Pediatrics.
appeal to youngsters on many levels, and psychologist
Halpern-Felsher believes the marketing exploits that.
for the top-selling Blu brand, for example, has an elderly
woman making an obscene gesture with her finger under the
caption "Dear Smoking Ban." Another brand, Freedom
Smokeless, refers to itself as "the socially acceptable
Halpern-Felsher: "Take back your freedom. Itís OK to
rebel. Itís your decision, your right. This is a perfect
message to adolescents."
ads were always big on images of unpolluted, outdoorsy
lifestyles ó beaches, mountain streams, Marlboro men on
horses. E-cigarettes add a 21st-century twist with brands like
Green Smoke, Eco-Cigs, Green Nicotine, Green Vapors, Enviro,
and White Cloud.
celebrate Earth Day, the White Cloud crew made planters from
glass bottles!" says a Facebook post by young-looking
people holding colorful creations.
e-cigarettes have adjustable nicotine strengths. But no matter
the level, the chemical is still addictive. And even
e-cigarettes with no-nicotine options offer something that
critics say is intended to hook kids: flavorings.
tobacco products, flavors other than menthol are prohibited
because of their appeal to youngsters. Vapers, in contrast,
can buy liquid that tastes like Gummi Bears, Snickers, bubble
gum, cotton candy, banana splits, butterscotch, kiddie
cereals, root beer, pepperoni and much more.
flavors," Stanfordís Jackler said, "are not aimed
at the adult palate."
companies contend thatís not true.
flavors "are not made to appeal to children or underage
people at all," asserts an Eversmoke e-cigarette Web
page. "Youíd be surprised how many elderly people . . .
love the different flavors they have at their choosing."
Stanford ad archive shows other ways the e-cigarette industry
is wooing vapers, often through the Internet, including event
sponsorship, free samples, Super Bowl commercials, online
games, cartoons, consumer testimonials and vaping videos of
everything from a postcoital puff to TV stars shilling for
e-cigarettes in the Emmy Awards gift lounge.
someone who researches adolescent thinking and perceptions,
Halpern-Felsher worries that decades of tobacco control
efforts are being undone by e-cigarettes.
big fear," she said, "is that itís changing the
social norms and getting young people who would never have
smoked cigarettes to become addicted and turn into the next
generation of smokers."