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10 Common Criticisms that Make Effective E-Cigarette Advertising Impossible

Marketing e-cigarettes is a controversial issue, to say the least. Cigarette advertising has been banned in the US since 1971, but now, a superficially similar product is being promoted on the airwaves around the world, as well as stretching out to non-traditional forms of advertising using the internet and social media.

For anti-smoking groups, the implication of e-cigarette marketing is invariably that it’s designed to attract youths and non-smokers into vaping. Why do they say that? Well, it’s a complicated issue, but their arguments strongly suggest that any marketing whatsoever for vaping products will be interpreted as targeting youth.

What would advertising look like if you couldn’t mention the core benefits of your products, use sex to sell, use discounts and promotions, position your product as aesthetically appealing, use celebrity endorsement or make it look glamorous? If the scrutiny placed on e-cigarette advertising continues – in the absence of a flat-out ban on all e-cigarette ads – it looks like we’re set to find out.

The (Possible) Problem

Before considering the virtually impossible requirements for producing an e-cigarette ad that doesn’t attract criticism and controversy, it’s important to acknowledge that there could genuinely be an issue here. If e-cigarettes were being marketed to youth and non-smokers, even a reduced-harm product could recruit more people to nicotine use than smoking ever would alone, and we could see an increase in young people (and adults) addicted to nicotine across the nation. While we support consumer choice, and the scientific evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are vastly safer than cigarettes, it’s clear that there could be a real issue with e-cigarette marketing. Vaping isn’t a habit non-smokers should be encouraged to take up, no matter how much of a benefit it likely is for smokers.

The Criticisms:

1 – Too Many Youths are “Exposed” to E-Cig Ads

Ideally, many groups want e-cig companies to advertise without kids so much as seeing it. The fact that researchers in the field use the term “exposure” to mean “a youth seeing an ad to buy e-juice or vaping product” tells you everything you need to know about their stance: youths seeing vaping ads are having their minds poisoned.

A study looking at youth exposure to e-cig advertising used Nielson data to estimate exposure to e-cigarette advertisements from early 2011 to late 2013. The researchers found a 256 percent increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette ads over the studied time period, with most of this being advertising of Blu products. However, the study showed that just under 53 percent of the advertising from Blu in the third quarter of 2013 aired overnight (between 1 and 7 am), with 14.8 percent airing late-night (between 11 pm and 1 am) and 21.6 percent airing in prime time (8 to 11 pm).

Airing ads overnight would seem like a pretty good strategy to minimize youth exposure: most youth would be asleep at 1 am, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that this wouldn’t reach children. However, the study points out that 8 percent of US youth watch programs overnight and 16 percent watch during the late night, as well as a quarter watching in prime time. So what time can you actually air e-cigarette ads without “exposing” youth? The answer, fairly obviously, is never.

Online advertising is much more widespread and even more difficult to keep children from seeing. If a teen or child wants to see imagery of somebody vaping, all it takes is opening Google and typing the word “e-cigarette” into the search box. Without parents imposing draconian limitations on their kids’ internet use, youth exposure to e-cig or tobacco e-juice marketing over the internet is absolutely impossible to avoid too.

2 – Don’t Show Vaping, It Looks Too Much Like Smoking

The authors of the study on youth e-cig ad “exposure” comment that, “Current advertising … depicts e-cigarettes with vapor that is indistinguishable from cigarette smoke.” Similarly, when a few e-cig ads were banned in the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) argued that, “We considered that the manner in which the vapor was exhaled and the heightened focus on this action created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.”

The implication of these points is clear: vapor looks too much like smoke to be appropriate in ads. The question it raises is much more puzzling: how do you advertise a product if you can’t show it being used? It’s like having to advertise a car without showing it on the road, or having to advertise food but not being allowed to show somebody eating it.

3 – Don’t Talk About Quitting Smoking by Vaping

This is an obvious requirement – since claims that e-cigs can be used for smoking cessation are never allowed – but it’s clear from user surveys that most consumers vape in order to quit smoking or reduce their daily cigarette consumption. The obvious nature of the restriction doesn’t take away from the core point: if you’re selling e-cigarettes, you’re not allowed to mention the main reason people use your product as a selling-point. It’s like being asked to advertise low fat meals without being able to say that it can be used in an effort to lose weight. We might accept this until more evidence is available, but it’s still a crippling limitation.

4 – Don’t Use Sex to Sell

In response to a previously-existing ban on showing the act of vaping in ads, one UK-based manufacturer released an ad that featured no vaping whatsoever and didn’t even show an e-cigarette. The ads were overtly sexual, though, use oral-sex related wordplay (e.g. “put it in my mouth”) to elicit an association before revealing that the comments actually referenced an e-cigarette. This was fairly extreme, and the ASA banned the ads from appearing before 11 pm, because “We considered the sexually provocative presentation of the male and female characters in conjunction with a graphic description of oral sex was likely to cause serious and widespread offence.”

This isn’t an isolated complaint, of course, with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ 7 Ways E-Cigarette Companies are Copying Big Tobacco’s Playbook pointing out a couple of ads that use sexually suggestive imagery to sell e-cigarettes. They’ve criticized a Blu ad specifically for this, too, which published in the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, commenting, “The ad features the blu logo front and center on the skimpy bikini bottom of a shapely model. You can even zoom in on it on the online version of the ad.”

CDC Director Tom Frieden echoed such concerns, saying “Marketing is about sex, free samples, flavors, aggressive marketing promotion and distribution. It’s straight out of the playbook of what was done for cigarettes in the 1950s.”

The obvious, gaping hole in this argument is that “sex sells” is pretty much a cardinal rule of advertising. Sex is used to sell a massive array of products, including perfume, underwear, alcohol, jeans and other clothing, soda, food and many, many other products, with the practice dating back to the late 19th century (although these are admittedly tame by modern standards).

Whatever your opinion of the sexual depictions of (primarily) women in ads for various products, it’s clear that this doesn’t somehow become any worse if the company happens to be one selling e-cigarettes. To pretend that this is a unique advertising strategy designed to lure youth is patently absurd: it’s common enough to be called standard practice.

5 – Don’t Mention that E-Cigarettes are Safer than Smoking

This is another expected limitation but one that’s still pretty severe when it comes to marketing, regardless. The FDA would have to approve e-cigarettes as a modified risk tobacco product before they could be marketed as being safer than smoking, and even if one was approved, it would only be for that specific product. This is another example of having to ignore a core benefit of e-cigarettes being entirely when it comes to marketing: even though pretty much any smoker who makes the switch does so with risk reduction in mind, you can’t appeal to that when you’re advertising. Again, the “low fat” analogy works well: it’s like trying to sell a low-fat meal without being able to say you’re less likely to die of obesity-related illnesses if you reduce your fat intake.

6 – Celebrities Shouldn’t Endorse Vaping Products

Blu is the brand most commonly receiving criticism for celebrity endorsement in ads, with Stephen Dorff and Jenny McCarthy appearing in ads, although Courtney Love has also appeared in an NJOY ad. Again, this should not come as a surprise to anybody. In our celebrity-worshipping culture, the use of famous people in advertising is hardly shocking. But yet again, when the product in question is an e-cigarette, you better believe you’ll be heavily criticized for it.

Kristen Noll-Marsh, vice president of CASAA, pointed out that, “These aren’t young, sexy, hip, today, A-list celebrities. What 13-year-old knows who Stephen Dorff is?”

But of course it doesn’t really matter how famous they are or whether youth will even recognize them; the important thing is that’s it’s an e-cig ad, and this alone provides grounds for criticism in the eyes of interested parties.

McDonald’s has had celebrity endorsement from LeBron James and Serena Williams, and many soda companies use celebrities too, and even though this has been criticized, it makes it clear that celebrities advertising products (even unhealthy ones) is a fact of modern life, far from confined to e-cigarettes.

7 – Don’t Make Vaping Look Glamorous

This same trend continues when e-cigarette companies promote their products using glamorous women and rugged men, with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids claiming this is straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. Tobacco Tactics (the wiki for all your tobacco-hating needs) also draws attention to e-cigarette advertising at glamorous events such as the New York Fashion Week for the same reason.

For one of the ads banned in the UK, the ASA commented that, “Because the ads presented it … in a sultry and glamorous way, we considered that they indirectly promoted the use of tobacco products.”

The concerns raised about the glamorous nature of e-cigarette advertising fall prey to the same fundamental issues as other complaints. As an advertiser, you want to portray your products as desirable. You either show glamorous people living a glamorous lifestyle (something people want) using your product, or what? The only alternative appears to be showing someone undesirable, ugly, poorly-dressed or otherwise unappealing. For anybody with even a rudimentary understanding of how to advertise products, this is obviously a ridiculous strategy.

8 – Don’t Make Products Look Too Appealing

The overall picture is clearly emerging, but one point identified on Tobacco Tactics’ e-cigarette marketing page gets the message across perfectly: it claims that “aesthetic appeal” including attractive packaging, colors and (of course) flavors is a concern when it comes to e-cigarette advertising, drawing on research conducted on cigarette brands. A report on e-cigarette marketing by Cancer Research UK identified “cosmetic appeals” as an example of “marketing aimed at youth”, along with flavors, putting forward exactly the same argument: e-cigarette or e-liquid brands can’t make their products look good without “appealing to youth.”

As with the oft-repeated flavor critique, the problem is that adults like products that look appealing too, and again the alternative is absurd: should e-cigarette companies aim to make their products look unappealing so they won’t be accused of marketing to youth? Should they say their liquids aren’t particularly tasty?

9 – Don’t Use Price as a Selling-Point

The Cancer Research UK report even points to discounts on e-cigarettes as being a strategy designed to lure youths into vaping, and a white paper from the Respiratory Health Association suggests limiting pricing discounts on e-cigarettes for this reason. This is potentially the worst example of what e-cigarette companies face: you can’t even use discounts as a marketing strategy without accusations of trying to appeal to youth.

10 – Don’t Say Vaping is for Adults Only

Finally, the paper on youth exposure to e-cig marketing puts a nail in the coffin of any attempts to avoid appealing to youth, with this quote from US district court judge Gladys Kessler about youth anti-smoking campaigns sponsored by tobacco companies:

“Emphasizing that smoking is an adult activity underscores the desirability of engaging in adult behavior for adolescents who are particularly motivated to appear mature”

The authors apply this to e-cigarettes, suggesting that even specifically saying vaping is for adults (as a Blu “take back your freedom” ad did) actually makes it more appealing to youth. In short, even if you explicitly attempt to do the right thing, you’re still doing the wrong thing.

What Can E-Cigarette Companies Do to Advertise?

The underlying theme is simple: if e-cigarette companies do anything to make their product seem appealing (otherwise known as “advertising” them), they will be criticized for it. In many cases, their ads will be pulled, even if they share features with virtually all forms of advertising. Without being able to show the act of vaping, talk about its core benefits, use glamorous imagery, have celebrity endorsements or make their products look appealing, how are vaping businesses supposed to advertise?

The uncomfortable truth is that if ads for e-cigarettes are to continue to exist, there is only one type that won’t attract criticism: bad ones. If a vaping company makes an ad showing an unknown, ugly actor wearing frumpy clothing, while not vaping from an e-cigarette that looks like it’s been dragged through mud, gravel and spit for several days on the way to the shoot, then there’s a chance that it could escape such criticism, so long as the actor in question is doing something sufficiently unglamorous, like picking bits of steak out of his teeth or coughing up phlegm. And even then, it seems like somebody, somewhere, would be offended at the very sight of an e-cigarette.

Conclusion – Let Vaping Companies Advertise, or Don’t

Criticism of e-cigarette ads entirely hinges upon factors that are common to all advertisements, effectively boiling down to, “that advertisement is advertising the company’s product, therefore it should be banned.”

Celebrities youths haven’t even heard of don’t attract youths. An ad aired at 3 am clearly isn’t intended to lure kids into vaping. Sex is used to sell everything, like it or not. Every product ever designed and every ad ever aired aims to make the product in question look appealing and to associate it with a desirable lifestyle. This is the unavoidable reality of advertising.

If marketing efforts for e-cigarettes aren’t allowed to make use of such strategies, then advertising vaping products might as well be banned altogether, because there is very, very little left. Successfully advertising e-cigs without attracting criticism is basically impossible.

Michael Grey
Find Me Here

Michael Grey

With a passion to educate through my writings and a passion to help others, I found my place here at Black Note. Being that I am a former smoker who quit smoking because of vaping, I knew I could help others do the same. Working for Black Note is a true blessing. Not only do I help educate vapers on a daily basis through my writings, but I am also enjoying the benefits of working with an amazing team and sharing an authentic tobacco solution with the vaping community.
Michael Grey
Find Me Here

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What is Naturally Extracted Tobacco E-Liquid?

E-juice, also known as e-liquid or vaping liquid, is the liquid that’s placed in the vaping device and subsequently atomized into vapor. When you go to buy e-juice, you’ll notice it contains a mix of several ingredients. These typically include vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), some type of flavoring, and nicotine.

VG and PG form the base of the e-liquid. VG is a component used in food and personal care products; its role in e-liquid is to create a thick, dense vapor. PG is another popular solvent used in a variety of everyday items. It carries the e-liquid flavor, provides the “throat hit,” and enhances the vaping liquid’s ability to soak into wicks or cartomizer materials.

Nicotine is an optional ingredient, often available in different levels. E-juice also contains some type of flavoring.

Black Note leads the pack of tobacco vaping liquid by using only natural flavoring – extract from real tobacco leaves to produce real tobacco taste. When you go to buy e-juice from other companies, you may find any number of chemicals used to create synthetic flavors that include fake strawberry, manufactured vanilla, and even man-made tobacco flavors.

If your aim when you buy e-liquid is to experience the subtle nuances, genuine flair and authentic taste of real tobacco, then you’ll be on the mark if you buy e-juice from the Black Note lineup.

Best E-Juice

When you’re going to buy e-liquid, it’s only natural you’ll want the best e-liquid. But what, exactly, does it “best e-juice” mean? We’ll tell you.

For starters, you’ll want an e-juice that doesn’t contain all kinds of strange chemicals and concoctions that you can’t even pronounce. True, even the best e-liquid will contain vegetable glycerin (VG) and proplene glycol (PG), which serve as the base of e-juice, but you don’t necessarily need a host of other chemical compounds.

The best e-juice will stick to natural ingredients, like real tobacco extract, rather than rely on synthetic flavorings, colorings and other additives. Diacetyl is one of those synthetic ingredients that has gotten a pretty bad rap, although its use is not all that uncommon for producing sweet e juice flavors.

Definitely read the ingredient list before you buy e-juice to ensure you recognize what’s on it. Better yet, see if the e-juice company offers a lab report to confirm what’s actually inside the e-liquid.

In addition to having as few chemical ingredients as possible, the best e-juice will have an amazing taste. For those who enjoy authenticity over imitation, the most amazing taste is the most natural taste, especially when it comes to tobacco. Since Black Note uses real extract from tobacco leaves, we not only avoid all those weird chemical flavorings, but we also produce the most authentic experience: tobacco vaping liquid that actually tastes like tobacco.

Best E-Liquid on the Market

Anyone looking for the best e-liquid on the market need look no further than Black Note. Black Note tobacco vaping liquid ranks as the best e-juice across the board in every category, starting with the taste.

Black Note’s main claim to fame is producing a tobacco vaping liquid that actually tastes like real tobacco. That because we use real tobacco extract, not chemicals, to create the best e-juice tobacco flavor. Using extract from real tobacco leaves retains tobacco’s nuances and flavor notes, giving you the most authentic and multi-faceted tobacco experience.

In addition to being the best e-juice for tobacco taste, Black Note also has the best e-liquid manufacturing process. We spent years researching and testing various production methods, and finally landed on one that we believe is absolutely perfect.

It starts with growing carefully selected tobacco seeds, followed by an equally precise of steps that include an extensive natural extraction process. Even our bottling and packaging is done with the utmost care, using recycled and recyclable packaging materials to ensure our products are as earth-friendly as they are vapor-friendly.

One more category where Black Note ranks as the best e-liquid is with the value. Every order comes with free domestic shipping, one-to-three day domestic shipping guarantee, and a 90-day, money-back satisfaction guarantee. If you’re not happy for any reason, or don’t agree we’re the best e-juice on the market, send it back on us and we’ll refund your money.

Vape Juice Ingredients

Vape juice ingredients can be pretty straightforward – or not. At the very least, most vape juice contains propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and some type of flavoring. Nicotine has largely become an optional ingredient that can be included at varying levels or left out altogether.

Vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG) are usually the two main ingredients that make up the base of most vape juice.

VG is a plant-based substance with the ability to produce a dense, thick vapor. PG is an additive found in many food items and certain medicines. It carries the flavoring, provides the “throat hit” and enhances the vape juice’s ability to soak into the wicking materials.

Nicotine levels can vary, as can ingredients that make up the flavorings. The components that make up vape juice flavoring are where ingredients can get rather complicated.

Vape juice that relies on artificial flavorings can contain any number of extraneous chemicals and other additives, whatever it takes to recreate the flavor the ecig juice is going for.

Black Note uses only natural flavorings: extract from real tobacco leaves. That keeps our ingredient list incredibly simple, backed by a lab report to prove it. You won’t find any strange chemical concoctions used to produce our tobacco flavor, just real tobacco extract that delivers a real tobacco experience.

What is the Best Flavor for Ecig Juice?

From strawberry shortcake to banana rum, ecig juice comes in tons of flavors. While folks can debate and discuss all the fruity, sweet or food-like flavors all day long, the best flavor for e-cig liquid is straight-up tobacco.

Why? Vaping was originally created as an alternative for traditional cigarettes, mainly for those who enjoy the taste of tobacco. And when you can find an e-cig liquid that is able to recreate tobacco’s full-bodied yet delicate flavor notes and nuances, but without the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, then you’ve found the best ecig juice.

Recreating tobacco’s complex flavor isn’t easy, especially when it’s attempted with artificial ingredients. That’s why Black Note sticks to the real thing, extracting the essence of real tobacco leaves to flavor our vaping liquid. Not only does this avoid the harmful chemicals in cigarettes, but it also eliminates the flavoring chemicals found in many ecig juices. The end result is real tobacco taste, an authentic tobacco experience and the best flavor for ecig juice you can find.

Notice also we said the best e-cig flavor was straight-up tobacco, not plain old tobacco. Black Note’s real tobacco vaping liquid happens to come in a variety of different blends, from the light and airy to the peppery and robust. Not all tobacco is created equal, and different blends capture the specialized subtleties that make each tobacco unique.

Best Sweet Tobacco E-Juice

When it comes to sweet tobacco e-juice, your options can be broken down into two categories.

The first category contains tobacco e-juice that overlays the tobacco flavor with artificial chocolate, caramel, vanilla, fruity or other dessert-like flavorings. We wouldn’t classify any such flavors as the best tobacco e liquid, simply because they typically use chemicals and other artificial ingredients to create the tobacco taste, the sweet taste, or both.

The second category of sweet tobacco e-juice is where you’ll find the best tobacco e-liquid, sweet or otherwise. This category contains vaping liquid created using only natural flavorings, which is exactly where Black Note fits in. Instead of concocting flavors using synthetic ingredients, Black Note uses an extensive extraction process that slowly and deliberately extracts the tobacco essence from real tobacco leaves.

The result is the best tobacco e-juice: tobacco vaping liquid that actually tastes like real tobacco. And if you’re going for the best sweet tobacco e liquid, we have a few tobacco blends that offer varying levels of sweetness.

Prelude is our sweetest tobacco e-liquid, containing golden Virginia tobacco. Made from fire-cured dark Virginia tobacco, Sonata is our Cavendish blend with a mildly sweet and nutty flavor. Solo is our menthol blend, giving you a semi-sweet minty taste created from natural menthol crystals extract from dried mint leaves.

For the best tobacco e-liquid that’s naturally sweet and remarkably delicious, Black Note is at your service.

WARNING: Black Note products are not smoking cessation products and have not been tested as such. Black Note products are intended for use by adults of legal smoking age (21 or older in California), and not by children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Black Note products contain nicotine, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Ingestion of the non-vaporized concentrated ingredients can be poisonous. Keep out of reach of children and pets.

WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.