Electronic Cigarette (e-cig) companies are aware that the desire to cut down or quit tobacco smoking motivates a large fraction of their customers. As a cessation tool, e-cigs appear to be marginally better than patches and other quitting methods, but still have limited effectiveness of less than 10%.1 A recent Lancet study found that 7.3% of tobacco users quit smoking on e-cigs compared with 5.8% with nicotine patches. 2A cross sectional population study also showed superiority of e-cigs over other forms of nicotine replacement. By contrast, a study from UCSF study showed no cessation effectiveness for e-cigs.3
The FDA does not permit e-cig companies to market their products as a smoking cessation device until the product is proven as “safe and effective,” much like nicotine patches that make such therapeutic claims. Nevertheless, e-cig brands falsely advertise as smoking cessation aids. An e-cig vapor juice company marketed from China even falsely bears the FDA label.
Companies skirt the edges of these limits with slogans that are proxies for quitting such as “smoking alternative,” “switch,” “change,” “it works!”, “kiss tobacco goodbye,” and “kick some ash.” SouthBeach Smoke asks consumers to “Make the Switch Today and Change Your Life.” NJOY ran a series of ads, which focused on the message of “switching” to e-cigs. In one of the ads under this series, timed for Father’s Day, a family is out on a paddleboat with father and son sitting up front bonding. The text of the ad read “some traditions shouldn't be passed down. Switch today.” Another inspirational ad from the company seeking individuals to “switch,” contains the image of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at the peak of Everest accompanied with the slogan, “He was the first, you can be too. Be the first of your friends to switch today.”
Krave urged individuals to switch by showing the image of a heap of burnt out combustible cigarettes accompanied by the slogan “Reason 182 to choose e-cigs” Because this is undeniably gross.” This is again misleading advertising that suggests the “safety” and “healthfulness” of e-cigs.
Ironically, e-cig companies have taken to using “World No Tobacco Day,” a day that has historically been used to bring attention to devious marketing practices of the tobacco industry and health risks associated with tobacco use to promote their products. Both E-Lites and NJOY marked that day to urge individuals to switch to e-cigs. This is more than a little disingenuous considering the “Wild West” marketing practices of the e-cig industry as well as the lack of proof that e-cigs are safe or healthy.
1. Bullen C, Howe C, Laugesen M, et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: A randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2013;382(9905):1629-37. PMID:24029165
2. Brown J, Beard E, Kotz D, Michie S, West R. Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: a cross-sectional population study. Addiction. 2014. PMID: 24846453
3. Grana RA, Popova L, Ling PM. A longitudinal analysis of electronic cigarette use and smoking cessation. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(5):812-3. PMID:24664434