Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are again making news. The industry continues to see sales soar, while government agencies consistently delay official policy regarding marketing and advertising of the products. Since e-cigarettes don’t technically emit smoke, their use is referred to as “vaping,” due to the synthetic vapor released when puffed. Some cities and states have implemented “vaping bans” in public places out of fear that its effect is similar to that of second-hand smoke. Though it may face limits, the new electronic smoking alternative industry is a commercial force to be reckoned with.
Following the latest round of discussions about e-cigarettes’ effect on society, Los Angeles may join New York and Chicago in vaping bans in offices, malls, and theaters. If successful, other cities may follow. A number of statewide bans on indoor vaping exist around the country as well. Legally limiting people’s ability to vape threatens to impede a commerce that reported $1.5 billion in sales last year.
E-cigarettes act as a battery-powered electronic cigarette; the tip lights up like an ember of a cigarette, and the user exhales a vapor reminiscent of cigarette smoke. The vapor contains nicotine. The promoted intent is to provide a smoker with all of the pleasure of smoking, without the dangerous chemicals. E-cigarettes are manufactured and marketed by the major tobacco companies such as Reynolds American and Lorillard. Those companies are marketing the popular new product as a way to ween smokers off of actual cigarettes.
Manufacturers offer different flavors such as coffee and cherry in their e-cigarettes. The product lines include different quantities of vapor producing liquid as well. The quantities range in size from five milliliters to 50 milliliters. The prices range from about five dollars to roughly 26 dollars.
Whether e-cigarettes are truly safe or not, has yet to be determined. The medical community is very hesitant to show support, for fear of mistakenly putting the American people at risk. Los Angeles city councilman Mitch O’Farell states that e-cigarettes may indeed contain carcinogens, along with marijuana derivatives. However Cynthia Cabrera, a leading officer for the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, responded that the concerns are unwarranted. President of Lorillard’s e-cigarette division, Jason Healy, stated that over 90 percent of e-cigarette users are currently smokers when they try the new product. Marketing and sales are limited to the current smoker demographic. Though anti-smoking advocates may interrupt advertising, they’ll have to face the soaring sales and popularity of the product.
While already fighting bans on public vaping, the e-cigarette industry is confronted with potential limits on its marketing as well. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA.) and Tom Harkin (D-IA.) are among those hoping to halt marketing efforts of the industry. The concern is that advertising the new electronic “fake” cigarettes in fact encourages young people to begin smoking. Senator Harkin likened advertising of the new smoking-alternative to the now banned “Joe Camel” mascot. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) currently has no policy in place regarding advertising of E-cigarettes, though it states that it will implement one soon.
All the while, the sales of the new product continue to soar. The foundation of marketing e-cigarettes continues to be the offer of a safer alternative to smoking; the advertising pitch is working. “Vaping lounges,” such as The Vapor Door in Utah and The Vapor Bar in California, have sprung up around the country. Quantum Vapor of New Jersey has expanded from a home based distribution company, to opening its own store front vapor lounge. The store’s owners claim a regular monthly increase in sales of 27 percent.
The e-cigarette industry’s marketing departments will likely face challenges. The FDA may limit the kinds of advertisement that can be employed, though sales show no signs of slowing down. As long as e-cigarettes’ reputation as a “safe cigarette” soars, sales will too.
By Ian Erickson
The Daily Record