Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Argue Over Smokeless Cigarette Marketing

Opponents of electronic cigarettes are particularly passionate about the marketing techniques used by distributors. Alleging unproven health claims and illegal presentation as a nicotine replacement therapy, anti-electronic cigarette advocates and lawmakers are moving quickly to prohibit electronic cigarette marketing in any form. Frequently cited concerns include advertisement phrasing that implies there is no risk to using the product, that it is a healthy alternative to smoking, and some claim that the variety of flavors are intended to appeal to minors. In addition, there is apprehension that advertisement use of electronic cigarettes in public places will send a message to children that smoking is normal and acceptable.

Supporters of electronic cigarettes disagree with the accusation that liquid flavoring choices are sold with teenagers in mind, as the average electronic cigarette user age is 44. They go on to point out that start-up costs are high, relative to teenage income, making the product out of reach for most underage consumers. Many note that electronic cigarettes are easily discernable from tobacco cigarettes, with styles available in a variety of colors and no red glowing tip. They also observe that use by non-smokers is unusual, as 96% of all electronic sales are to current tobacco users.

Though few laws handle electronic cigarette issues specifically, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations currently in place give guidelines for acceptable messaging. Advertisements that include presentation of electronic cigarettes as an option for adults 18 and over, intended for use by current tobacco cigarette smokers, and a cost effective alternative to traditional smoking are in compliance with current legislation in most states.

The State of California has the most highly regulated electronic cigarette market, with a recent decree that electronic cigarette distributors follow these advertising guidelines:

* The product cannot be promoted for therapeutic use as a smoking cessation device, until such time as the FDA approves it for such use.
* Smokeless cigarettes cannot claim to be healthier than tobacco products, until reliable scientific evidence becomes available.
* Advertisers cannot promote the product as lacking second-hand smoke, tobacco, and/or cancer-causing agents.
* Smokeless cigarettes must have labels warning that nicotine has been proven to cause birth defects.
* Marketing materials cannot give the appearance of being aimed at children, and distributors are prohibited from using images of individuals that appear to be under the age of 28, cartoons, fashion, or music, as these are considered to have high appeal to minors.
* Products cannot be sold to consumers under the age of 18, flavored cartridges are not permitted, and no smokeless cigarettes can be offered through self service vending machines that could be accessed by underage users.

Many public health associations have stated positions against electronic cigarettes. Supporters of the product allege that tobacco manufacturers have encouraged this, and big tobacco companies are lobbying for legislation against electronic cigarette sale and advertisement, not out of concern for public health, but to protect their bottom line.

There are many stakeholders in the electronic cigarette debate, with most acting out of concern for the health and safety of American consumers, especially children. The primary point of contention is whether current smokers should be encouraged to switch to electronic cigarettes. Those who say yes believe that electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco, and should be marketed as such. Those who say no believe that there is not enough research to support such claims. New electronic cigarette users are growing rapidly, which suggests that these issues will be at the forefront of public attention in the near future.

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Smokeless Cigarette Marketing