Big Tobacco’s Mad Men Are at It Again

Smoking-Don-Draper-Jon-Hamm(1)Whenever you’re marketing a product about which the general public hears negative things, Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men would suggest, “Change the conversation.”

Isn’t that what Big Tobacco is doing with electronic cigarettes?

In an effort to avoid the stigma associated with cigarettes, devices which are essentially e-cigarettes are being marketed cleverly as “hookah pens”, “e-hookahs” or “vape pipes”.  The marketing would have you believe you’re not smoking and exposing those around you to toxic secondhand smoke; you’re “vaping”, and the vapor you exhale is harmless. Yet, you’re likely being exposed to nicotine, which is highly addictive, and there is no conclusion yet potential risks associated with exposure to exhaled vapor.

By shrewdly branding and marketing these devices, the e-cigarette industry has grown exponentially.  It’s no surprise that the big tobacco companies have invested in the e-cigarette business.  The same tobacco companies that told us “More Doctors Smoke Camels” and urged us to “Come to where the flavor is”  are now arguing that they are not marketing e-cigarettes, e-hookahs or hookah pens to youth—yet all these devices come in a variety of colors and candy-sweet flavors that appeal to kids.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and their ilk are not yet regulated by the FDA.  E-cigarette companies are able to advertise their products in ways that have been prohibited for traditional cigarettes.  Some of the e-cigarette marketing is misleading, and we’re concerned that youth, including young adults, will think that vaping is cool and possibly less addictive than regular cigarettes. And we’re also concerned that increased use of these devices will re-normalize the sight of people smoking.

It’s time for us to change the conversation back. It’s time for the FDA to regulate these devices. The stakes for inaction can’t get much higher—a new generation addicted to nicotine.