E-Cigarettes Have a Huge Cheerleader: Big Tobacco


Smoking ads are a skosh different these days

The Marlboro Man. The Virginia Slims Gals. The Phallic Joe Camel.

These images have been engraved in our medulla thanks to a bajillion dollars in advertising budgets by big tobacco for the past six decades. For all those years, smoking was made to look cool, care-free and almost bitchin’. That is, until multi-billion-dollar lawsuits forced them way out of business. You know, pity and such. Boo-hoo. Whatevs.

In fact, according to this story from NPR, tobacco companies have paid more than $100 billion to state governments as part of the 25-year, $246 billion settlement in the past 15 years. 

Many thought that was the death knell for the industry. Until some foreshadowing a few years back, which was found in a movie that — no joke — is an absolute must for all PR professionals to watch, “Thank You for Smoking.”

In this film, and the last scene of the linked trailer, is this dialogue between Rob Lowe (agent Jeff Megall) and the great Aaron Eckhart (smoking lobbyist):

Jeff Megall: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they’re looking to make.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff Megall: It’s the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn’t they blow up in an all oxygen environment?
Jeff Megall: Probably. But it’s an easy fix. One line of dialogue. ‘Thank God we invented the… you know, whatever device.’

Whelp, beam me up, Scotty. The future is definitely here and big tobacco is so digging them — E-Cigarettes.

In a story with a great headlineThe New York Times delves into this obvious cheering section to help bring smoking back to the forefront and coolness factor out into the open.

Meet Geoff Vuleta, CEO of NJOY, a electronic cigarette company. He wants to “renormalize” smoking for the “vaping” individuals — folk who suck on vapors from the e-cancer sticks. While I’m not wishing any kind of well with that (being a son of a chain smoker for 40 years), they are dipping into big tobacco’s advertising playbook.

Mr. Vuleta’s words are more exuberant than the official company line, which is that NJOY doesn’t want everyone to smoke e-cigarettes but only to convert the 40 million Americans who now smoke tobacco. The customers NJOY attracts, and how it attracts them, are at the center of a new public health debate, not to mention a rush to control the e-cigarette business.

The old faithful reserves like celebrity-all-too-rugged-and-awesome-for-words-folk-that-have-to-be-pictured-in-black-and-white spokespeople, sex sells (because after an cheap, tawdry evening tryst, a Popsicle just isn’t as alluring), sponsorships of sports and music (any guess NASCAR and classic rock fans), cartoons (you know, because you just can’t kill them…eh, get them young enough), and they even have a collective enabling tagline “Switch. Don’t quit.”

Stay classy, e-Cigs.

And now, reports are out that e-smokes are surpassing $1 billion in annual sales, and that is expected to double next year alone.

To the concern of parents, e-cigarette use has doubled among teens. Last year, 10% of high school students said they tried e-cigarettes, up from 4.7% in 2011, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Source: Forbes)

Surely, big tobacco is NJOYing this (see what I did there) because as profits go up, pockets get thick. So, Nick Naylor, if you’re out there, I’m waiting for a call because I would love to do a follow-up with you. The forum is yours. And PR Newser is waiting.

Until then, I would say “Suck it” but since you are doing that already…never mind.