The electronic cigarette debate is starting to get national attention. Arguments over their health effects are common enough, but its family groups that may have the largest ax to grind. Many claim that e-cig companies are actually targeting teens, offering enticing flavors and even a certain coolness factor. Most e-cig companies and even their users would disagree, but actions speak louder than words.
There is hardly any level of advertising that someone won’t claim is an enticement to teens. Commercials staring Stephen Dorff and Courtney Love have come out and, though they clearly targeted an older audience, the claim was still that teens would now find smoking attractive due to e-cig advertising.
But commercials and advertising is a hazy area. It’s not easy to create an image that appeals to adults, but alienates or avoids teens. The best thing a company can do is include some mention or innuendo that these things are for adults. But then that could have a sort of reverse psychology effect. So far, market research suggests that teens aren’t interested in electronic cigarettes — they’d rather do the real thing.
But then there’s the flavors argument. Cigarettes with flavors other than the select few like menthol have been banned to keep flavors from inducting new smokers. Whether this works or not is very much up to debate. Teens still pick up smoking, just like they’d pick up drinking even if Smirnoff didn’t exist. But family groups still insist that flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and butterscotch either intentionally or unintentionally appeal to kids.
Ecig Advanced is of the stance that flavor restrictions don’t really help anyone. However, companies should be aware that certain names are more likely to put a target on their back than others.
An article in Lincoln, Nebraska’s Journal Star just yesterday reported on the success a local smoker had quitting smoking by transitioning to electronic cigarettes. Though he had tried e-cigs from drug stores, it wasn’t until visiting a vapor shop and buying various flavors of e-liquid that he successfully made the change. The flavors he found success with gummy bear, peppermint and blueberry Fruit Loops.
The article reports that the vapor shop doesn’t sell to anyone under the age of 18 — even though Nebraska doesn’t have a ban on selling e-cigs to minors. However, it’s hard to image a family or children’s group advocate that wouldn’t say, “See! Gummy bears and Fruit Loops flavors! Clearly you want to ensnare children in a lifetime of nicotine addiction just to make a profit.”
Granted, descriptive flavor names like Dark Chocolate or French Vanilla will still see some flak from the same groups, but those are far easier to defend. The point is that the industry has enough trouble defending its freedoms without some companies making it easier for opponents to make a moral argument.
Even companies that don’t take an industry-wide view of the effects of their naming might consider the local politics that might be at play. In the absence of national level regulation on electronic cigarettes, state and local level government are putting legislation into place. Shops selling e-liquid that appears to entice teens intentionally could find that the legislation pushed through in their locale is a bit rougher than in other areas.
What flavor names did you find interesting or enticing that you don’t think would make easy targets for opponents?