Monday, September 15, 2014

A Double Standard in Advertising

People have began criticizing television commercials and print advertising for electronic cigarettes that appear to try to glamorize vaping. The use of celebrities like Jenny McCarthy by Blu, an electronic cigarette manufacturer as well as advertisements and commercials by Blu and Fin showing people using electronic cigarettes in glamours settings are the grounds for this accusation. An example of such an ad, this one from e-cig manufacturer Fin is below:

There is a further accusation that there is a push to market electronic cigarettes to children. The claims that e-cig manufacturers are marketing to children stems from only two things. A recent study by Research Triangle Institute International   found that e-cig commercials are shown at times children and young adiuts are watching TV. The second claim that e-cig manufacturers are marketing to children comes from some of the nicotine juice flavors. That claim is that flavors like bubble gum, cherry, and root beer are being made to get children to try vaping since these flavors appeal to children's tastes.

While there is little denying that e-cig manufacturers are trying to glamorize vaping they are not the only industry to try to glamorize their products. Alcohol manufacturers have long marketed their products by showing attractive people drinking their products. For beer manufacturers this has largely been showing average looking men in bars attracting beautiful women as they swill down a Busch or Milwaukee's Best. For Scotch and Bourbon manufacturers this goes further to show folks in expensive suits and evening gowns in such glamorous settings as a mansion. Below is an example of a commercial featuring the "most interesting man in the world" for Dos Equis, a brand of beer:

As for the accusation e-cig manufacturers market to children, what the study by Research Triangle Institute International does not address is whether the commercials targeted children or young adults. Viagra and beer commercials are shown at times children and young adults can see them too. Yet no one has accused or Pfizer or  Anheuser-Busch of marketing to children. And I have yet to see a e-cig commercial showing teenagers vaping. As for the flavors nicotine manufacturers use, nicotine juice manufacturers have pointed out adults like these flavors too. And if there is such a concern over nicotine juice having flavors like apple, why is it no one has complained about Nicorette Gum having flavors like White Ice Mint or Fruit Chill? Nicorette gum can get a teenager addicted to nicotine just as easily as an e-cig can. In fact the use of nicotine gum by teenagers might go unnoticed while it would be more difficult to hide the fact one is using an e-cig.

The fact of the matter is there is a double standard going on when it comes to the advertising of electronic cigarettes and other dangerous products. The effects of vaping are largely unknown with some studies showing little danger while others show there may be some risks. What all studies agree on is that vaping is healthier than smoking. And if one is talking health risks, drinking alcohol is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the country, not just for the one drinking it, but those around them. In 2012 according to MADD there were 10,322 deaths due to accidents caused by drunk drivers (by comparison the CDC estimates about 7,333 people die of lung cancer from second-hand smoke and all agree vaping is safer than smoking). As far as I know no one has taken many drags on an e-cig jumped in a car and killed a family of four due to impairment caused by the use of the e-cig. One in ten people die from alcohol use according to the CDC. If an e-cig user is responsible and uses his or her device away from others, the only person's death they may be bringing on faster is his or her own. So why then are alcohol manufacturers not criticized for glamorizing their products, but e-cig manufacturers are?

And while no alcohol manufacturer shows ten year olds swilling down their products they do use very young actors and actresses in their commercials. How many times have you looked at an attractive young lady in a beer commercial and wondered if she was even old enough to get in a bar? And taverns and bars in college towns encourage young adults to drink by having game nights, having live bands, and having various contests. Some even serve alcohol to underage drinkers not caring whether they are old enough to drink or not.

It is therefore somewhat perplexing as to why there is this double standard. You have this product many are using to quit smoking which while its effects are not totally understood it is agreed it is healthier than the alternative. And then you have this industry that produces a product known to kill people, that glamorizes the use of its products, and actively markets to young adults that goes on uncriticized  except by groups such as MADD and law enforcement. MADD's aims are mainly to stop drunk driving and prevent underage drinking, not to stop the alcohol industry from glamorizing drinking. Law enforcement does not address the health risks of drinking. Law enforcement only addresses the violation of the drinking laws such as those concerning drinking and driving and underage drinking.

There is no reason there should be this double standard. Either folks should criticize both the electronic cigarette and alcohol industries for glamorizing their products, or criticize neither. There is no reason for one dangerous past time to be the subject of being stigmatized while the other goes unchecked. Don't get me wrong, I drink on occasion, but this double standard really makes no sense to me. And the fact one nicotine product (e-cigs) is criticized for its flavors while another (nicotine gum) is not makes even less sense.