E-cigarettes are culturally empty. There is no literature with e-smokers and there are no movies where heroes pull out e-cigarettes. When it comes to e-cigarettes, we don’t have any cool aspiring images or ideas to relate to. There is no way to feel good about using them except to think of them as a substitute to harmful behavior, which is a negative thought in itself because it relates to a personal weakness and dependency. The days of cigarettes are numbered and nothing is more indicative of that than the subtle rise of the e-cigarettes, a product seen by some as a last chance for companies to cash in on a dying trend that will disappear soon after the real cigarettes disappear.
Blu-Cigs, an e-cigarette company, attempts to fill that cultural emptiness with some commercials. For example they made a commercial with actor Stephen Dorff who, in one black and white commercial, walked around on the beach with a scruffy beard and a cool jacket while taking hits of his e-cigarette as he posed with cool thoughtful looks. The commercial, however, had an almost a comical feel to it, because it was almost unashamedly obvious in what it was trying to achieve.
Cigarettes of the 20th century did not become popular for their commercials, although they did promote the false idea that they were safe. What made cigarettes cool was the culture surrounding them. In the movies, the heroes and anti-heroes alike had their cigarettes along with them on their journey. Take any photograph of a famous artist, where they sit hunched over their desk or in front of their blank canvas, with cigarettes in their hands, deep in cerebral thought. It’s that sideline presence of cigarettes that made them seem cool. In the commercial with Stephen Dorff, it is very obvious that he is an actor. Movies, however, are long enough to where the audience gets drawn into the story and begins associating the characters with real life personas.
The makers of e-cigarettes like to advertise their product as a modern and non-harmful way to continue enjoying the cool trend of 20th century. That’s precisely what the e-cigarettes lack compared to their harmful counterparts, coolness. Cigarettes were a common way for people to represent their reckless side, their existential troubles, and their imperfect but unique nature. E-cigarettes simply do not represent any of that, because there is no culture behind them to relate to.
Is there a smoker who has totally transitioned from cigarettes to e-cigarettes or who doesn’t feel self-conscious about using e-cigarettes? Are there any underage kids running around with their e-cigarettes or even mention them? Or, are e-cigarettes utterly irrelevant to the current young generation because there is no element of risk in them, no rebellion?
Unlike what e-cigarette makers seem to want the public to believe, e-cigarettes were not created to replace real cigarettes. There will not be a future where all the smokers will be replaced by e-smokers. No, e-cigarettes are the last ditch effort by some companies to cash in on a declining trend by duping some smokers into believing that they can still enjoy their habit in a non-harmful, modern way. Many smokers may try their e-cigarettes, but often revert back to real ones or try to quit smoking.
By Ildar Sverigin