ECig ads may be a way for ecigarette companies to get their name out to smokers, but the fight over ecigarette advertising and what impact it has have continues.
Given the importance of advertising as a way to inform consumers of their options, this topic is an important one. It also seems to be one that comes up often, as the battle between those for and against electronic cigarettes is waged fiercely.
This arena is one of the biggest battlegrounds because, good or bad, advertising makes such a big difference for any industry, especially a younger one like ours. We’ve seen complaints about showing second hand vapor in commercials and we’ve seen complaints about their targeting youth. The latest negative news to come out is about how ecigarette ads affect smokers.
Before getting into the study itself, there is an irony here in that anti-vaping efforts include showing ecig ads that include people vaping. Ultimately, there is a lot more to the study and context than meets the eye.
The recent furor is due to a recent study in the journal Health Communication which points to ecigarette ads creating a rise in the urge to smoke for current and ex-smokers. Researchers used the study to assess 301 daily smokers, 272 intermittent smokers and 311 former smokers.
Researchers had all of them watch three commercials for ecig brands, some of which showed users actively vaping, while others did not. After interviewing the participants, both daily smokers and former smokers registered in uptick in the desire to have a traditional tobacco cigarette.
For the current smokers it may have signaled the need to smoke now rather than later, while for the ex-smokers it either lowered the determination to not smoke or simply raised the temptation, depending on how you want to look at it. There was no change for intermittent smokers.
Now what a lot of people are going to do is look at this study and say the real danger behind ecigarettes aren’t things like second hand vapor or false claims of formaldehyde production. No, the more pressing problem is that ecig ads are creating a desire in current and ex-smokers to head back to traditional tobacco cigarettes.
That means that all of these ecigarette ads are counter-intuitive because they are pushing viewers away from the product being advertised and to something they are trying to get away from. It sounds a little odd when you look at it that way, but if you think about it a little longer, you may realize that this doesn’t have near the importance being attributed to it.
Putting Ecigarette Ads Into Context
First there is an addition piece of data here that will help us make sense of it. This is the fact that there was almost no difference at all when comparing the group that was exposed to ecigarette ads with vaping taking place, and those who saw commercials without vaping taking place.
The takeaway here is that it was viewing that second hand vapor creation, so to speak, not simply watching a commercial for one of the many ecig brands that created that rising urge to smoke.
Why is there a difference you ask? Isn’t it just as bad to watch someone vaping or smoking on TV or in the movies and have that make you want to run out and grab a pack of smokes?
Think about things through the eyes of an ex-smoker. He or she goes through the day and encounters plenty of people smoking along the way. Maybe he tunes into Mad Man and sees a lot of smoking! He can see people smoking outside as they come in from work, they can smell the odor as someone walks back into the office from a smoke break.
People may not see advertising like they used to, but examples of people smoking tobacco cigarettes are often hard to avoid. That doesn’t mean all ex-smokers are rushing back to light up a smoke when they see that, right? The urge certainly rises, but that desire to go back to a habit is understood to be a strong one. From my experience, having an ecigarette with me always helps. I have an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes and it doesn’t have the stench or ash that people hate.
Basically, if ecig ads make you want to smoke then they are just part of the many visual cues that do the same thing. The difference is that ecigs can help make a difference in your lifestyle. As professor Joseph N. Cappella, the author of the ecig health study in question, said “If it turns out to be the case that ecigarettes are a good vehicle for reducing tobacco addiction, then we not want to stand in the way of advertising.”
The second part of what he says, “it doesn’t mean we couldn’t carry out that advertising without the vaping cues in order to not have these deleterious consequences,” is what we disagree with. Having ecig ads show off their advantages may very well be worth contributing to a world that is already filled with enticements for current and ex-smokers to pick up a cigarette. What do you think?