Advertisements promoting smoking and tobacco products have been banned on television since the 1970’s.
Given the health problems associated with then, most would agree that smoking is not a great habit to develop. Furthermore, the FDA spent years proving that cigarette advertisements were glamourizing this dangerous product for young people and potential new smokers. Television was proven to have a particularly strong influence on younger audiences who would then pick up the habit. Consequently, TV networks got their characters to butt out as well.
So, no TV ads for unhealthy and habit-building tobacco products.
Yet, during CNN’s continuous coverage of the double mass-shootings in Texas and Ohio, commercials for e-cigarettes and vaping products ran during nearly every break for several days. That’s because e-cigarettes are tobacco-less – a loophole which advertisers are currently enjoying.
For several days after the shootings, much of America was emotionally fragile, highly susceptible and glued to their televisions. No more perfect audience was ever made for an addictive product.
And oh, these commercials are slick. They use high-tech modern images, nature’s calm beauty, and popular celebrity endorsements – lest they be confused with your parents’ smelly, ashy cigarettes.
The ads even go so far to suggest that it’s a cleaner – dare I say healthier? – option for smokers. One commercial blends images of a Utopian city as the announcer voice claims the product “has everything they want” – like it’s some kind of earth-born health food.
Sure, there’s no proof of long-term damage from e-cigs. The product hasn’t been around long enough to complete any “long-term” study. But that was the case for regular cigarettes a hundred years ago and society’s still paying the price.
In the early 1900’s, doctors were surveyed with mis-leading questions and offered free cigarette products in order to promote the different brands as “doctor approved.” However, knowledge of the effects of smoking was still limited.
Some physicians suggested that cigarettes were good for reducing stress. Some even prescribed it to exercise their patients’ lungs. That’s like claiming a knife fight is a good cardio workout. It’s not wrong but …
And if asked today to choose between tobacco and vaping, most doctors would likely choose e-cigs for their patients. (The Devil you know, after all.) However, the question would be just misleading as those surveys in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. But that’s good enough for advertisers. And it’s not like they’re breaking the law.
So for now, manufacturers can air television commercials for a modern cigarette that is tobacco-less, but not nicotine-less. And that is the chemical that is addictive and habit-forming.
Thus far, it’s not causing cancer like the tobacco in cigarettes. (Yay!) But the US Food and Drug Administration has received hundreds of reports of seizures or other neurological symptoms that could be related to e-cigarettes. Only time will tell.
So what will it take to get these un-cigarettes and misleading advertisements off the air? Well, if they’re anything like their predecessors, it’ll require billions of dollars, a decade or two, and a million lives or so.
What’s the worst that could happen?