Collection: Cancer Scare
In an attempt to appear safe, many electronic cigarette (e-cig) companies have highlighted the serious health complications of tobacco cigarettes and promoted their own products as “healthy”. In particular, companies have capitalized on smoking’s association with lung cancer; it is well established that 80-90% of lung cancers occur in patients with a history of smoking. 1
E-cig companies in their ads distance themselves from this often-fatal disease by stating their product contained “No Carcinogens” (Green Smoke, Clearette, Headlines, e-cigLife) or “No Cancerous Substances” (eHealth-Cigarette). The brand Steamz even goes as far to state their cartomizers cause “No Cancer” and are “90% safer than traditional cigarettes.”
Many ads have used the image of the diseased, cancerous lungs of smokers, and compared them to the healthy lungs of those who vape. Steamz has an ad where the right lung of a set of paper lungs has a smoldering hole burnt into it by the fire of a traditional cigarette, with the hole representing the spread of lung cancer. The left lung has an e-cig hovering over it and the lung is intact. Another Steamz ad has a set of lungs made out of a forest, with part of the left lung devastated by a forest fire and the slogan “Smoke Electronic Cigarette, Prevent from Lung Cancer.”
In a drive to increase their credibility at least 7 e-cig companies have associated themselves with breast cancer charities or awareness campaigns. Many produce limited or special edition pink e-cigs and often promise to donate a portion of the sales to charity. Discreet Vape, which produces e-cigs in the shape of medicinal inhalers “for the discerning vapor enthusiast”, produced a limited edition device with “Proceeds of the LE Pink PUFFiT-X donated to cancer research.”
The majority of these ads are accompanied by promotions or discounts to encourage sales. An EverSmoke ad shows the torso of a woman with her breast covered by her hand and the pink breast cancer ribbon. The slogan reads “Save a Life. Save a Lung. Save a Boob.” The same ad offers “25% off all Starter Kits”. V2 offers a pink breast cancer lanyard when customers spend $50 or more. The South Beach Smoke Company has an ad featuring a pink battery on a pink background with white writing and the tagline “Purchase a limited edition pink battery & 5% of the proceeds will be donated to SGK.”
At a time when no research had been done into the health effects of e-cigs this is a highly immoral advertising tactic, designed to play on people’s fears of an often-fatal disease.
(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General, 2004.