As the dangers of smoking become too hard to ignore and the manipulative ways of the tobacco industry come to light, electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), which contain no tobacco and produce no second hand smoke, are on the verge of becoming the new norm. They are being positioned as the best, socially acceptable, smoking alternative for someone addicted to nicotine.
To promote the social acceptability of e-cigs, advertisements under this theme allude to the freedom to vape an e-cig anywhere without guilt or fear of health consequences. A Veppo Social ad shows two couples having a good time at a club with their e-cig. Veppo e-cig claims its product helps keep the consumer “ in the conversation, inside and in the moment.” An ad for Fin has an image of empty bar stools at a diner with the caption “Welcome Back.” The ad is a clear call to smokers that it is acceptable to vape an e-cig indoors. An ad for Blu vapor lounge shows a number of teens having fun at a Blu sponsored musical event. Some e-cig retailers have even created green “e-cig smoking” okay signs to be displayed in public areas and indoor spaces to indicate to consumers that it is acceptable to vape in that particular area.
Some of the ads under this theme also have images of consumers vaping in front of young children. For instance an ad for Regal e-cigs shows a father with a beer in one hand and an e-cig in another toasting his son during a family brunch. The text of the ad reads, “Find out how James can Smoke Anywhere. Learn More.” An ad for Flavor Vapes, which is inspired by Mad Men and the style of the 1960s, has a woman blowing e-cig vapor into a baby carriage and an ad for Eversmoke contains the image of a woman vaping in front of two young children. The headline of the ad reads, “The Better Smoking Choice. Keep Yourself and Family Healthy.” The images of individuals vaping in front of young children is intended to send a clear signal to consumers about the “guilt-free” nature of the product as well as showcase the absence of second hand smoke with its attendant ill effects. The use of children in e-cig ads is also not surprising. In the 1940s, it was a common ploy used by the cigarette industry to reaffirm the respectability of the product and send a reassuring message to consumers. This time too, it is no different.
For young non-smokers as well as social smokers, e-cigs are also positioned as socially attractive devices. Blu e-cigs recently launched a “smart pack” that alerts users of Blu to others users of the e-cig within 50 meters. The reusable packs, which serve as a charger for the cigarettes, can be set to exchange information about their owners, like contact information on social networking sites, that can be downloaded onto personal computers. The e-cig pack is a new age way to promote social smoking in an era of social networking.