E cigarettes are becoming more popular and getting more attention in the media recently. They offer the potential for a cleaner and more controllable form of smoking. However, any innovation from the tobacco industry will attract extra scrutiny, and this is no exception. The most controversial aspect of this new product is the fact that its flavoring opens up the possibility of an old specter in tobacco marketing: the idea of trying to sell nicotine-containing products to the young.
Laws Controlling Tobacco Advertising
Most western nations, including Canada, place heavy restrictions on tobacco marketing. This includes everything from the design of cigarette boxes to whether tobacco companies can advertise their products on TV or in print media, as well as what the content of those ads can be. These strict restrictions arise from the well-studied negative health effects of smoking. Considering that smoking nicotine is addictive and that the health effects become worse over time, the government is highly concerned about what happens to smokers. Advertising restrictions are attempts to make it as hard as possible for tobacco companies to bring in new customers. This especially includes young customers, because they have the most to lose from starting to smoke. Bans on buying tobacco below a certain age and on advertising to minors are commonplace.
Characteristics of E-Cigs
However, e cigarettes are a whole new product category that is outside many of the legal definitions that govern current tobacco marketing. That alone makes them a potentially dangerous grey area. The fact that it is possible to create flavored electronic cigarettes complicates the issue further. This is because these products combine three features that traditionally appeal mostly to younger demographics: new technology, bright colours, and assorted flavors, especially sweeter flavors. The mere act of emphasizing these aspects of e-cig products in marketing materials could potentially attract the attention of government regulators. Even if tobacco companies are not explicitly trying to market e-cigs to teenagers and young adults, those three features are enough to get the attention of those younger customers.
There is some evidence that this has already begun to happen. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration found that the most common consumers of e-cigs are those under 25 and that many high school students have at least tried them. That led to new regulations this year that made it illegal to market or sell e-cigs to minors and placed restrictions on the advertising of the products. These regulations are likely to appear in the parts of Canada and Europe that do not already regulate e-cigarettes as well. E-cigs have grown into a huge and expanding business, and that has many regulators concerned that they might become a new gateway to smoking. For those of you interested in learning more, there are more resources to be found on the DashVapes website.