Case Study: Alcohol Advertising vs. E-Cigarette Advertising

A comparison of Alcohol Advertising vs. Electronic Cigarette Advertising

Not so long ago traditional tobacco cigarette adverts dominated newspapers, TV, magazines and other forms of media. These adverts depicted sexy models, rugged mountain men, famous celebrities and even Father Christmas smoking tobacco cigarettes. In time, it transpired that smoking was not only unhealthy, but deadly. At this point, tobacco cigarettes became heavily regulated and all imaginable forms of tobacco advertising became illegal. In the UK, all of us are familiar with white shutters behind counters in supermarkets where all forms of tobacco are completely hidden. One would have to walk up to the counter and ask for a specific cigarette brand. This begs the question, do electronic cigarettes deserve the same treatment and scrutiny? You may wonder, why don’t alcohol ads receive the same scrutiny? This case study will now juxtapose E-Cigarette Advertising against alcohol advertising.

E-Cigarette Advertising & Children

The media has been very quick to question the burgeoning e-cigarette industry. In a recent news story, an author has suggested that electronic cigarette companies are using same questionable tactics that were employed by tobacco companies.

Most legislators cite the wide assortment of sweet and desert flavoured e-liquid and the use of famous celebrities in electronic cigarette advertising- this strategy is no different to those used by many alcohol companies. Statistically, alcohol causes approximately 80 thousand deaths each year and many medical conditions, it is not put under as much scrutiny as electronic cigarettes. Take a quick glance at these alcohol ads and compare them with alcohol adverts.

Trendy and Cool Image

Electronic cigarette companies have come against baptism of fire for using celebrities to bolster the “cool” factor of electronic cigarettes.

Trendy- hip and Stylish Marketing

Fashionable models clad in glamorous labels does not only appeal to teenagers.

Sex Sells in more or less every industry

Sex just sells and its appeal cannot be any shape or form attributed just to teenagers.

Are these flavoured alcoholic drinks targeting children?

Many critics have been quick to point a finger at “candy” flavoured e-liquids, but aren’t these alcoholic drinks targeting children and teenagers if we are to use this logic?

Looking at the above comparisons of alcohol advertising versus electronic cigarette advertising, it is glaringly obvious that e-cig companies are employing the same tactics used by alcohol companies. In fact, electronic cigarette ads are fairly tame when you juxtapose with the overtly sexual imagery used in some alcohol  adverts. Large breasted women clad in bikinis are a staple in many of these alcohol advertisements, which is undoubtedly a great attraction to many teenage males. Other alcohol ads incorporate fashionable and trendy women, which are undoubtedly appealing to teenage girls seeking social acceptance.

The biggest issue at the forefront of many critics is the “candy” flavoured nature of e-liquid, which they claim makes e-cigs appealing to teenagers and children. Children are attracted to these flavours but so are adults. A reason why many smokers switch to electronic cigarettes is because they offer a greater choice of flavours beyond tobacco flavours. Alcohol companies are constantly bringing out new flavours to their alcoholic collections, but they do not receive the same level of criticism as electronic cigarettes. Here are a handful of alcohol flavours (the writing is on the wall!).

Glazed Doughnut Vodka

Cupcake Vodka

Bacardi Wolf Berry Rum

Smirnoff Iced Cake Vodka

Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka

Mama Walker’s Blueberry Pancakes

Bubble Gum flavoured Vodka

The list can go on, but you get where we are going with this. The truth is, adults are equally attracted to stylish ads as are children. Everyone likes candy and desert flavours. With a massive adult vaping population, vaping companies to do not have neither the intention nor the desire to market to children.

Why are E-Liquid and E-Cigarette Companies being Demonised?

Why are alcohol companies allowed to use advertisement techniques incorporating sex, large breasted women, chic and trendy models and hundreds of desert and sweet flavours whilst e-cigarettes companies are being demonised for their attempt to do the same? A part of the reason may be attributed to the tobacco industry. Whilst e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, most people still associate electronic cigarettes with tobacco as suggested in “cigarettes” part of the name. A  vast majority of the population are still very ill-informed about vaping, unless they are vapers. We strongly believe that this problem has everything to do with societal perceptions and the prejudice entrenched into them from the early tobacco days. Another reason may well be the unscrupulous track record of big tobacco conglomerates that have deceitfully and purposefully targeted children for the sake of keeping a healthy profit. A lot of people have lost their trust in tobacco companies and this fear deeply ingrained into them is tainting their perception of electronic cigarettes.

A bigger economic reason for this double standard is the basic fact that big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies are beginning to lose out to electronic cigarettes. Just think about it, serious conditions caused by smoking are treated with expensive medicine from pharmaceutical companies and electronic cigarettes are rendering smoking cessations aids such as nicotine patches and gum obsolete. Quite to the contrary, the vape and electronic cigarette market is not a monopoly or an oligopoly but rather a free market with low barriers to entry. This has resulted in the growth of the number of vape shops, e-liquid manufacturers, mod builders and factories. Surely, the competition between a vast number of vape businesses will raise the bar and drive less scrupulous companies out of the business. Unlike smokers, vapers are very emotional people who actually care a lot about vaping. It is unlikely that a vaper would return to a company that has deceived them as has been proven by the scandal where many e-liquid companies have misrepresented diacetyl levels on their e-liquid. What did they do? Switch to another, more ethical e-liquid company. Now try to say the same for tobacco cigarettes. One way tobacco companies are stifling competition from the vaping market or even driving small vape start-ups out of business is by supporting strict and draconian government legislation such as the TPD in Europe.

Changing Perceptions of Electronic Cigarettes

We should sound an important cautionary note- e-cigarettes are not tobacco products. As we have noted earlier, a reason why many people are against electronic cigarettes is because they incorrectly associate with tobacco products. We have to educate the population and legislators that electronic cigarettes are not tobacco. A good starting point is to depart from the expression “electronic cigarettes”. The label may have just happened to be convenient because it is easier to sell an “e-cigarette” than a “mechanical mod” because most people would now what an electronic cigarette is, exactly what it says on the tin. When electronic cigarettes came out, when were mostly cigalikes. The vaping market has become extremely advanced and sophisticated that it may be just the right time to rebrand! Perhaps it is the label that is hindering the electronic cigarette market?

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