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Should e-cigarette brands be allowed to advertise?

Advertising is one of the most simple yet effective tools a brand can harness in its marketing arsenal. Firstly, advertising reaches everywhere: from social media, to television and even the clothing of our favorite sports teams, there is hardly anywhere you can go without seeing one product or another recommended to you. E-cigarettes are still relatively new on the advertising circuit, and their presence on billboards and radios has been hotly debated, but they aren’t the first product in the world to court controversy through advertising.

Advertising influences how we dress, how we eat and even how we look. It was a nephew of Sigmund Freud named Edward Bernays who first developed a theory on how humans could be convinced to want something they hadn’t previously desired, and this was exactly how the tobacco market began targeting women after World War I.

Bernays was employed by the American Tobacco Company to encourage more of the female population to begin smoking, and one of the key messages he used was to tag on the suffragette movement. He created the reference “torches of freedom”, illuminating the idea that by smoking, women were showing themselves as equal to men. The campaign was a huge success, and the smoking figures for females went up.

Tobacco advertising on TV and radio was banned in 1971 when society began to get an inkling of the huge health implications a tobacco habit could have. For a while, the space tobacco advertising left has been dormant, but since e-cigarettes burst onto the market with a meteoric rise in popularity in 2004, there has been debate on whether e-cigarettes should be allowed to advertise.

The CDC is currently not in favour of vaping adverts. There main bone of contention lies with the exposure of minors to e-cigarettes that might appeal to them, and eventually lead to a nicotine addiction. This was a sentiment echoed the US Surgeon General in his recent report, but it’s a claim that has been rubbished by other experts in the field.

Despite this, as it stands, e-cigarette brands are free to advertise as they please in America. In other parts of the world, such as the UK, the regulations on e-cigarette advertising are a lot stricter, which is surprising considering the UK’s slightly more lenient view on electronic alternatives overall.

The FDA rules are undoubtedly going to have a huge impact on the e-cigarette market as a whole, but under the regulations, advertising will be allowed to continue. Mitch Zeller, Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products has confirmed that “For now, there are no direct restrictions in the final rule on TV advertising,”, which will no doubt come as somewhat of a silver lining to the big brands who can afford advertising rates, but will do little to help the smaller independents who face the most threat to their existence from the FDA.

Converse to Bernays’ theory that advertising could make people want things they didn’t really need, there is a need to tackle the issue of tobacco in America. Smoke-related illnesses and disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the country, ahead of motor-related accidents and gun crime. A study by Public Health England suggested that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than traditional alternatives, and they form the most popular method of tobacco cessation currently.

Although knowledge of e-cigarettes as a product is wide-spread, sadly there is miseducation on what e-liquids contain and how they work. This has led many to believe that they are just as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, something there is no firm evidence to support. Advertising has the potential to re-educate individuals on e-cigarettes, and reach out to more current smokers who might be looking to put an end to their smoking habit, or at the very least cut down.

Have you seen any advertising for e-cigarettes? What were your thoughts on it? Do you think it will make previous non-smokers likely to try it, or do you think it plays an important part in showing tobacco smokers what alternatives are out there for them?

We’d love to hear your views, so let us know on social media or in the comments below!



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