Category Archives: E-cig advertising

FDA to e-cig companies: Stop making your products look like candy

“Candy King” is an actual e-cig product.

The FDA is warning e-cigarette companies in a letter sent out earlier this month to stop making their products look like candy.

This has been one of the big battles against the fledglinge-cig industry — candy-flavoured products. Candy-flavoured products marketed as candy-flavoured products. And most of all, candy-flavoured products that the industry insists are not designed for underaged users.

Some of these products have names like Smurf Sauce, Twirly Sour Patch kids and Nilla Wafers.

Yeah, this is for real, those are e-cig products on the left.

Are you seriously going to try to convince me that any product with the word “Smurf” in it is actually being marketed to adults?

From a Bloomberg article:

The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission sent 13 letters Tuesday to companies that make and sell the liquids used in e-cigarettes, warning them for using false and misleading labeling and advertising. The nicotine products resemble juice boxes, whip-cream canisters and well-known candy and cookie packages like Sour Patch Kids and Nilla Wafers.

The move follows an FDA sting operation that resulted in 40 warning letters last week to retailers that sold kids Juul e-cigarettes, the latest craze in underage tobacco use.
The FDA has given e-cigarette makers extra time to comply with certain e-cigarette regulations and is attempting to rein in youth use while it learns more about the products. Antismoking advocates have criticized the agency for not moving to ban flavors in tobacco products. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said he wants to take a balanced approach to help adults who enjoy the flavors switch from regular cigarettes to vaping.

“Companies selling these products have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t putting children in harm’s way or enticing youth use, and we’ll continue to take action against those who sell tobacco products to youth and market products in this egregious fashion,” Gottlieb said in a statement.

The agency plans “a series of escalating actions” as part of a new plan to prevent youth tobacco use, Gottlieb said.

From a Washington Post article:

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a telephone briefing with reporters, said that it would be hard for “any reasonable person” to examine the products and not conclude that “they are deliberately being packaged and marketed in a way that is designed to not only be appealing to kids” but also to confuse them by mimicking items they frequently consume.

So, something is supposed to hit the fan within three weeks. I’ll be keeping track of this.

I hate to say it. I try to avoid partisan politics on this page, but I am not a fan of Donald Trump and his administration, but I have to admit, this Scott Gottlieb *appears* to actually take his job seriously. I say “appears” because I am by nature a cynical person and I will await to see if the rubber meets the road with him, so to speak.

But, Jesus Christ on a cracker, e-cig flavours based on Oreo cookies, “Smurf sauce” and “Cookies & Milk” and you’re actually going to sit there with a straight face and try to convince me these are products designed for adults? C’mon!


Research: Candy-flavoured e-cig advertisements attract teen users


This is an article from Medical Daily about research that strongly suggests that candy-flavoured e-cigarette products really are encouraging more teenagers to take up vaping.

Teen vaping has become a big deal. The rate of teens who use e-cigarettes triplied between 2013 and 2014, from about 4.5 percent to about 13 percent. I assume that figure is likely far higher than 13 percent now. In fact, the rate of teens who vape is higher than the rate of teens who smoke. And further research shows that a higher percentage of kids using e-cigs eventually move on to real cigarettes than those who never take up e-cigs.

Anyway, researchers from the  Behavior and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge said their work showed that kids shown ads for candy-flavoured e-cigs were more likely to want to try e-cigs than kids showed generic ads for e-cigs or kids showed no ads at all.

From the article:

“We’re cautiously optimistic from our results that e-cigarette ads don’t make tobacco smoking more attractive, but we’re concerned that ads for e-cigarettes, with flavors that might appeal to school children, could encourage them to try the products,” said Dr. Milica Vasiljevic, from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, in a press release.

The Food and Drug Administration has been for some time now mulling new regulations for e-cigarettes. The FDA has already proposed banning e-cig sales to minors (already banned in the vast majority of states, though there is virtually no control over online sales of e-cigarette products). However, in its draft regulations, the FDA proposed ZERO regulations over e-cigarette advertising, even though the federal government has very strict control over cigarette advertising (no cigarette ads on TV or radio and no cartoon images or characters allowed in print ads as per the 1998 Master Settilement Agreement).

If you don’t believe these e-cig ads are pretty damn blatant about marketing their products to teens as being cool and hip, check out this infamous Blu E-Cigs Cherry Crush ad:

Me and a hell of a lot of other people ripped on FDA during the comment period about the lack of controls over e-cigarette marketing and advertising. The FDA was handed regulatory authority over nicotine products and e-cigs absolutely contain nicotine just like cigarettes, so from where I sit, it certainly appears the FDA has authority to control e-cig advertising, which has been very, very blatant as far as trying to market e-cigs to kids.

A lot of people and tobacco advocacy groups are also not happy about all the candy flavourings in general for e-cigs. Candy-flavoured cigarettes were banned by the FDA a few years ago (but Swisher Sweet cigars are still OK for some reason). I’m personally not as dogmatic about this issue (since I have talked to a lot of adult e-cig users who like the candy flavours), but I am adamant that the FDA needs to crack down — hard — on e-cig marketing to kids.

Anyway, will the FDA ultimately crack down on e-cig advertising? We’ll see. The agency has been working on its final regs for almost a couple of years now, so maybe that’s encouraging that it took the reams of comments about e-cigs  and e-cig advertising seriously.

Study: E-cigarette ads reach 7 kids out of 10


Very upsetting study by the Centers for Disease Control which speaks to the absolute biggest problem I have with e-cigarettes — how they are marketed.

The e-cigarette industry has been just downright brazen and blatant about marketing their products to teenagers. E-cig ads today employ all of the exact same techniques used by the cigarette industry for decades to entice teen smokers — sexy, suave, sophisticated people using their products, cartoon characters (even Santa Clause) and ads featuring women’s panties. Women’s panties? … I mean, seriously, you just don’t get more blatant than that.

Anyway, the CDC survey found that 7 out of 10 middle school and high school students had seen these e-cig ads, which are all over the place, magazines, mini-marts, billboards, etc.  Tom Friedman, head of the CDC, makes this exact point:

Yeah, sure, e-cigarette companies aren’t trying to market to kids at all.

“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes. I hope all can agree that kids should not use e-cigarettes.”

It’s no secret that teen use of vaping products has absolutely exploded in the past three or four years. More than triple the number of kids vaped in 2014 than in 2013 and studies show that more teenagers vape today than smoke cigarettes.

This simply isn’t a good thing on so many levels. Kids are still turning into nicotine addicts, which is bad no matter what the delivery system of that nicotine is. And studies show that a higher percentage of kids who start out vaping eventually turn to cigarettes to get their nicotine fix than kids who never vape.

Blu E-cigs, fast, sophisticated, cool … they make you feel like a race car driver.

So, what’s to be done. The Food and Drug Administration is mulling proposals for regulating e-cigarettes. One of the common-sense proposals by the FDA is to ban the sale of e-cig products to teens (most states already ban this, but it is not banned on a federal level … AND e-cig products can be easily purchased by kids online).

The CDC recommends that e-cigs can only be bought in “face to face” transactions, and that online transactions be banned. The FDA did not propose banning online e-cig sales in its draft regulations, but it’s been working on finalizing those regulations for nearly a couple of years now. The FDA also didn’t consider any curbs on e-cigarette advertising in its draft regulations, something that caused a major hue and cry from anti-tobacco advocates.

Teen smoking rate in Florida plummets; teen vaping rate skyrockets


Good news, bad news out of Florida.

According to a state study, only 6.9 percent of Florida kids under 18 are smoking cigarettes, the lowest level ever recorded. However, NOT a coincidence, 15.8 percent are now using e-cigs. That number is up from 5.4 percent in 2013.

This follows a similar trend all over the country in which the teen smoking rate has plummeted in the past five years; at the same time the teen vaping rate is skyrocketing. Kids are simply ditching cigarettes for a different nicotine delivery system, one that is easy to buy and ultimately cheaper than cigarettes. And studies show kids who vape are three times MORE likely to ultimately take up cigarettes, which makes total sense to me — they got the nicotine Jones already and they gotta keep getting their little nicotine fix somehow.

So, I consider it mixed news. Kids getting addicted to nicotine sucks no matter what the delivery system. This just adds more fuel to the fire to have the Food and Drug Administration crack down on e-cig marketing to teens. The agency was supposed to issue new regulations on e-cigs months ago, but for some reason is dragging its feet. In draft regulations released a year or two ago, the agency made no recommendations to control e-cig marketing and instead recommending simply banning e-cig sales to minors (which is already banned in most states — but kids can still easily buy e-cig products, especially online.).

From an article out of West Palm Beach, Florida:

The use of e-cigarettes, and this dramatic increase that we’re seeing among youth, threatens to normalize smoking again,” said Shannon Hughes, director of the Florida Health Department’s Community Health Promotion Division. “We have worked for decades to de-normalize smoking.”

What is taking the FDA so long to make a decision on e-cigarettes?

man late looking to his watch
Oh God, I’ve finally resorted to using lame clip art. I’ve gone to the Dark Side.

The other day, I was wondering, “what the hell is going on with the Food and Drug Administration and e-cigarettes, it’s been forever since I last heard.”

So, a quick Google and found stories stating that I’m not the only one out there wondering, “what the hell?”

Over a year ago, the FDA released its proposed regulations for e-cigarettes. The agency received so many comments about the draft regs that the comment period was extended. Over a year later, we’re still waiting for a response. stock photos stock photos

The FDA did one right thing in its draft regulations, which was to ban all e-cig sales to minors (42 states have already banned e-cig sales to minors, but this is not slowing their popularity with kids.). However, in the draft regs, the agency completely punted on regulating sugary candy flavours for e-cigs (Even though the FDA banned sugary, candy-flavoured cigarettes) and ignored regulating e-cig marketing (Again … even though the federal government has strict guidelines for tobacco advertising, like no more Joe Camels.).

Many of the comments the FDA received were outrage over the lack of regs over flavourings and marketing. I’m not sure how to read the long delay for the final regs, I’d like to think it’s taking so long because they’re making a lot of changes, but I’m not that naive to think a federal agency is actually going to listen to the public.).

Last week, 31 public health organizations urged the FDA to stop dawdling and taking action. In the past year since the FDA has been working on the final version of the regulations, teen e-cigarette use has skyrocketed (It literally has more than tripled since 2013, which is hard to believe.). These groups agree that regs regarding marketing and flavouring need to be stronger than what was in the draft rules (I feel very strongly that the feds need to crack down on the out-of-control Joe Camelesque advertising for e-cigs, and I’m starting to feel more strongly about them banning the candy flavours, too.):

From a article:

The medical groups say cigar and e-cigarette brands are using marketing tactics that they feel appeal directly to young people, like promoting candy and fruit-flavored products, and they want regulations to put an end to it.

“It’s no wonder use of e-cigarettes by youth has skyrocketed,” the letter reads. “This process has already taken far too long. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to target our kids with a new generation of tobacco products.”


“My concern is always the first-time users,” says Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s bad it took so long to make a dent in [conventional] tobacco users, and we are now starting something else, and we are just waiting and waiting and waiting. We don’t have the data that e-cigarettes are a gateway [to other tobacco products], so we just wait. It should not be like that.”

Noted tobacco control advocate Stanton Glantz sounds like he’s in the same boat with me about the FDA, given the agency’s track record so far with tobacco. (The FDA gained regulatory control over tobacco products in 2009.)

“Given that the White House has blocked eliminating menthol from cigarettes for years despite strong evidence—including from the FDA’s own analysis that doing so would protect public health—I am not holding my breath,” Glantz said.

I mean, I expected the FDA to begin actually regulating nicotine when it took over tobacco regulation six years ago, and other than banning candy flavours  for cigarettes and bidis, it hasn’t done all that much with nicotine. This agency moves glacially slow. It’s frustrating.

UK study: E-cigarettes not effective in the longterm in helping smokers quit


This study is going to go against a lot of anecdotal stories that I see repeatedly on the Internet. A study done in the UK has shown that E-cigarettes are not very effective for helping smokers quit and that most smokers who use E-cigs as a smoking cessation tool are back smoking within six months.

In a way, it’s not terribly shocking because the biggest problem with using e-cigs to quit is that the smoker is keeping the nicotine in his or her system and is not kicking the nicotine … which is ultimately what a smoker must do in the long run. I’ve seen a lot of e-cig advocates online touting them as a great help in quitting smoking. They claim you can slowly ratchet down the amount of nicotine you’re inhaling over the course of a few weeks.

I’m sure they’re a great help for some people, but I’ve also sure wondered at times how many of those people online telling these great success stories about e-cigs are actually from the marketing or public relations department of Blu E-cigs and other e-cig companies.

These findings were based on a review of 22 studies on e-cigs involving a total of 2,223 smokers. The study states that e-cigs seem pretty effective in helping smokers quit for three to six months, but after six months, most of the e-cig users were back on cigarettes. (So maybe some of the anecdotal stories I’ve read are coming from people in that three- to six-month period in which the e-cigs are still working.).

Scientists behind the study said that if smokers are serious about quitting, they should probably try more traditional methods, such as patches or gum, rather than e-cigs.

From the article:

Lead author Dr Riyad al-Lehebi, of the University of Toronto, said nicotine patches and other aids to help people quit should be used if there is no evidence e-cigarettes help people kick the habit.

E-cigarette users took up smoking again within six months, and the devices caused side effects like a dry cough, throat irritation and shortness of breath (file photo)

He said: ‘Although e-cigarettes are widely promoted and used as a smoking cessation tool, we found no data supporting their long-term efficacy and safety.

‘While e-cigarettes have been shown to significantly improve abstinence at one month compared with placebo, no such evidence is available supporting their effectiveness for longer periods.

‘Until such data are available, there are a number of other smoking cessation aids available that have a more robust evidence base supporting their efficacy and safety.’

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: ‘Smoking remains the number one cause of preventable death in the UK, and we would encourage smokers who wish to quit to first try more well-established methods like smoking cessation services.

‘E-cigarettes are likely to be much less harmful then smoking conventional cigarettes so people who can switch using e-cigarettes have taken a big step forward.

‘However, the use of e-cigarettes is still relatively new, and these studies serve as a reminder that there may be potential risks attached to the long-term use of e-cigarettes so users, especially those living with a lung condition such as COPD and asthma, should try to quit them too.

My biggest issue with e-cigs isn’t whether they are an effective or ineffective smoking cessation tool. It’s the fact that a number of e-cig companies are very blatantly marketing to teens and kids with sexy and suave ads mirroring the sexy and suave ads used by Big Tobacco for several decades. Largely because of this advertising, and the lack of regulations over e-cig sales, teen use of e-cigs is skyrocketing while teen use of cigarettes is plummeting. To me, this is not the right answer. Nicotine is nicotine whatever the delivery system and It’s still massively addictive and this study shows to me that e-cigs are not an effective substitute for tobacco.

The Simpsons’ epic takedown of e-cigarettes and e-cig marketing to kids

simpsons vaping 2
I screencapped this off of Hulu, that is why there is a caption in the upper left-hand corner.

I absolutely LOVED this episode of the Simpsons. I want to give Matt Groening a big hug. Last week, the Simpsons had an absolutely devastating takedown of e-cigarettes and how they are marketed to kids. Oh, man, I would have LOVED to have been in the boardroom of Blu E-cigs on Monday morning after this episode.

simpsons vaping 4

In this episode (I am having to post screencaps from Hulu because that’s the only legal way I can do it … I’m not even positive it’s legal this way.), Bart meets his friend Millhouse’s cute older Dutch cousin Annika Van Houten (this is cute. Simpsons writers are a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Dutch actress who plays Melisandre — her name is Carice Van Houten), who is a big fan of e-cigs. She introduces Bart to e-cigs.

simpsons vaping 6
Bart is offered bubblegum, strawberry shortcake and watermelon nicotine flavours for his e-cigarettes.

Annika asks Bart to go the Quickie Mart to buy five packs of e-cigs (it wouldn’t be packs, but cartridges). Bart slaps a five-dollar bill on Apu’s counter and Apu pulls out a pack of “Laramie e-cigs” (which looks exactly like Marlboros, funny joke because RJ Reynolds own the biggest e-cig company out there — Blu E-cigarettes) and says:

“Though it’s legal in this state, you’re asking for a nicotine delivery device that could quite possibly leave your breathing through a hole in your neck.”

simpsons vaping 5

Bart then imagines how cool it would be to have a hole in his neck, where he could eat spinach without actually having to taste it.

Apu adds:

“You are right, but remember this is not kids’ stuff. Now, would you like bubblegum flavour, strawberry shortcake or watermelon dream.”

simpsons vaping 10
Maggie finds one of Bart’s e-cigs.

Oh, SNAP. This is awesome. I literally squealed out loud.  Here is THE issue with e-cigs. This is what pisses me off SO MUCH about e-cigarettes. They’re not marketed to kids? Bullshit. Why are there so many candy and fruity flavours then? These aren’t for grown-ups. These are  for 14- and 15-year-olds. You aren’t … fooling … anyone, Blu and every other e-cig company out there.

Later, Marge catches Bart vaping e-cigs. Bart’s response: “It’s still legal in this state … the bill is stuck in committee.” Yup, the Simpsons got it right. The FDA has proposed banning e-cig sales to minors, but those regulations have been stuck in the “draft” phase for well over a year now. In many states, young teens can still easily buy e-cigs.

simpsons vaping 12
Bart tells Annika to take her “poison penlights.”

When Marge tells Homer about Bart using e-cigs, Homer says, “Oh, those are totally legal. Tell me, does he like bubblegum or strawberry?”

In the end, Bart tells Annika off at the airport as she returns to the Netherlands, telling her to “take these poison penlights with you.”

Thank you, Simpsons. Thank you, thank you. For this epic takedown of what’s turned into an absolutely craven, amoral industry — e-cigarettes.




Survey: More teens now using e-cigs than cigarettes


OK, I alluded to this in my previous posts, and here’s why I wasn’t aware of this — because this study just came out two or three days ago. I thought I was out of it or something.

According to a 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, more teens are now using e-cigs than cigarettes.

Thank you very much, wildly successful Blu E-Cigs marketing campaign.

Good news, bad news. Because cigarettes are bad … but e-cigs are still addictive and hence not a big improvement.

According to this U.S. News and World Report story

Survey results released Tuesday show more than 17.1 percent of high school seniors said they used an e-cigarette in the past month, while just 13.6 percent said they used a traditional cigarette in the previous 30 days.

The gap was wider among younger students. About 16.2 percent of high school sophomores used an e-cigarette in the past month, whereas 7.2 percent used a conventional cigarette. For eighth-grade students, self-reported e-cigarette use was also more than double the conventional use rate, at 8.7 and 4 percent, respectively.

Wow, this just sucks, in my opinion. I want to be happy about the decline in smoking, but nicotine is nicotine and in whatever form, it’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet. All these kids are just finding a different delivery system to get addicted to nicotine.

The FDA is set to impose new rules banning e-cig sales to minors, but is punting on regulating e-cig marketing, which has been incredibly blatant in trying to make e-cigs look sexy and exciting.


USA Today editorial: If the FDA won’t crack down on the marketing of e-cigs, perhaps states should

USA Today published an interesting editorial this week on how to stop the explosion of e-cig use by teenagers.


The editorial first brings up a shocking statistic (shocking to me, at least) — that the percentage of kids under 18 who have used e-cigs (17 percent) is now higher than the percentage of kids who have smoked cigarettes (14 percent). Wow, I’m sure that number has been out there, but I never noticed it before.

The rate of teen smoking has nosedived in the past two or three years, in some states dropping below 10 percent. There’s your biggest reason why, unfortunately.

E-cigs might have some value for helping some people quit cigarettes when everything else has failed. However, they are being used as a substitute for cigarettes by too many kids — not people trying to quit a 20-year habit.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a series of rules for e-cigs (since e-cigs contain nicotine, the FDA has regulatory authority). One rule is fine — banning e-cig sales to minors under 18. However, the agency noticeably failed to propose any control over how e-cigs are marketed, even though the federal government does have the power to control the marketing of cigarettes (through both the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA.).

E-cig companies, the biggest of which (Blu) is now a wholly owned subsidiary of RJ Reynolds, have been brazenly aggressive in marketing e-cigs as cool, hip and sexy, deploying the exact same marketing techniques used by Big Tobacco for decades to make cigarettes appear alluring to teens.

From the USA Today editorial:

For manufacturers, the logic is inescapable: Addict a teenager and you could have a customer for life; miss the moment and you have no customer at all. So in ways subtle and not so subtle, e-cigarette makers have applied Big Tobacco’s advertising and marketing practices.

One prominent tactic is their use of celebrities — including former Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy, singer Courtney Love, actor Stephen Dorff and teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame — to make “vaping” look sexy and rebellious.

USA Today acknowledges that with a very conservative Congress being sworn in in January 2015, that could tie the FDA’s hands somewhat in developing new regulations for e-cigs. So, as an alternative, it proposes that state attorneys general use the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with Big Tobacco to clamp down on e-cig advertising.

From USA Today:

Alternatively, states could fill the breach. Nearly a dozen still allow e-cigarette sales to minors when they plainly should not. They could also use the 1998 tobacco settlement negotiated with the industry long before e-cigarettes existed. The accord defines covered products in a way that includes e-cigarettes, because nicotine is derived from tobacco.

By invoking the settlement, state attorneys general would be able to clamp down on marketing that’s targeted at youth, including certain celebrity promotions, concert sponsorships and access to free samples.

After a decades-long battle against youth smoking, it would be tragic to see a new generation of teens hooked on a different but potentially dangerous substitute.

I have no idea if such a tactic would work, but I personally think something needs to be done to crack down on these commercials and stem the tide of the explosion of e-cig use among kids. I think the FDA is wimping out here — screw Congress, the FDA is part of the Executive branch, they don’t answer to Ted Cruz, they answer to Obama.

Whatever it takes to tackle this problem head-on.


Edgy, racy, sexy ad for e-cigs … Blu E-cigs will make you as cool as a racecar driver … or Joe Camel

joe camel, stephen dorff race car driver
Joe Camel and Stephen Dorff (Yup, that’s actually Stephen Dorff) were race car drivers

OK, I am literally sending an email to the FDA about this new Blu E-cigarette ad. Man, this ad annoyed me the first time I saw it about a week ago, and it’s still bugging me.

It’s with our longtime Blu spokesman — washed-up actor Stephen Dorff, advertising a new cherry-flavoured Blu e-cig. Stephen Dorff is shirtless and tattooed, vaping on an e-cig, then he’s climbing a mountain vaping on an e-cig, then he’s walking on a beach vaping on an e-cig, then he’s riding a bicycle vaping on an e-cig, all, then he’s walking on a racetrack wearing a Blu racing uniform vaping on an e-cig, then he is at a formal party vaping on an e-cig, then he is at a hip bar, vaping on an e-cig, then playing pool, while vaping on an e-cig … all to a jazzy, funky song by T-Bird and the Breaks (with the refrain of “Lift me up” as in “Blu cigarettes lift me up not only with their little charge of nicotine, but with their cool hipness, too.”)

So, e-cigs are portrayed as sexy as hell. Funky music blaring, Dorff shirtless, partying, drinking, … heck, even driving a racecar. Blu E-cigs will actually make you as cool as a racecar driver.

Wow, just wow, this is the most annoying Blu commercial I’ve seen yet, blatantly stealing from the “cool, suave” school of tobacco advertising. … heck, e-cigs will even turn you into a racecar driver. Just like Joe Camel. Yup, Joe Camel was a racecar driver, too.

Never mind the fact that activists are concerned that the candy-flavoured e-cigs are directed at kids even without the cool, hip, jazzy advertising … this is just over the top. E-cig use among teens has tripled in three years and ads like this are one of the big reasons why. This is what the FDA needs to STOP. This is a prime example of the kind of e-cig advertising they need to crack down on.