Monday, September 16, 2013

Anti-Smoking Advocates Continue to Make Ridiculous Statements that E-Cigarette Companies are Promoting Smoking

A number of anti-smoking advocates continue to make the assertion that electronic cigarette company marketing is promoting cigarette smoking.

For example, in response to a CDC report on youth experimentation with e-cigarettes, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal stated as follows: "“Electronic cigarettes as marketed today – with flavors like bubblegum and strawberry – are targeted at young people with the very clear intent of creating a new generation of smokers. Without question, tobacco companies are using the same despicable tactics with e-cigarettes that they used in previous decades with traditional cigarettes to lure youth down a path of nicotine addiction and eventual death."

Stan Glantz continues to argue that electronic cigarette marketers are promoting smoking.

In an article published in JAMA, Benowitz and Goniewicz argued that marketing of electronic cigarettes may promote "continued smoking of cigarettes and renormalizing cigarette smoking behaviours."

The Philippines health director stated that: "the electronic cigarette promotes smoking among children and the youth. It makes them less fearful of hazards and risks of smoking. It is opposed to the DOH’s health goal to stop cigarette smoking and tobacco use."

These are just a few examples of the many anti-smoking advocates and groups which are claiming that electronic cigarette companies are marketing their products in order to promote smoking.

The Rest of the Story

I have already pointed out how ridiculous this assertion is. But I think it deserves some more emphasis.

The clear intention of electronic cigarette marketers is to sell as many electronic cigarettes as they can, not as many cigarettes as they can. In fact, of the more than 250 companies now on the general market, only one even sells cigarettes in the first place. Thus, it is preposterous to assert that electronic cigarette marketing is intended to promote cigarette smoking.

The truth is exactly the opposite. What electronic cigarette companies want is to get smokers to quit smoking and switch to electronic cigarettes instead. The greater the degree of substitution of e-cigarettes for the real ones, the more money the e-cigarette companies make. Thus, they have no incentive to encourage smokers to maintain their smoking behavior.

In short, at least for 249 of the 250 electronic cigarette companies that are currently selling on the general market, there is zero incentive for them to promote continued smoking and none of them are doing that.

My examination of marketing for the only company (Blu cigs, owned by Lorillard) which could conceivably have an incentive to promote continued smoking - in addition to e-cigarette use - confirms that they are not in any way promoting smoking. What they are promoting is electronic cigarette use.

This has to be one of the most inane assertions being made by anti-smoking groups and advocates that I have ever heard.

(Jacob Sullum nicely summarizes the issue here.)

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