According to an op-ed piece by the American Lung Association (ALA) published last Thursday, the tobacco industry is marketing electronic cigarettes to kids by enticing them with sweet flavors, including cotton candy, atomic fireball, and gummy bear.
According to the ALA: "E-cigarette use among middle school children has doubled in just one
year. ... Yet, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) still is not regulating e-cigarettes. The absence of regulatory
oversight means the tobacco industry is free to promote Atomic Fireball
or cotton candy-flavored e-cigarettes to our children. ... Big
Tobacco is happy to hook children with a gummy bear-flavored
e-cigarette ... ."
The American Lung Association, then, is claiming that Big Tobacco companies are marketing the following electronic cigarette flavors to children:
1. Atomic Fireball
2. Cotton Candy
3. Gummy Bear
The Rest of the Story
The rest of the story is quite simple. The American Lung Association's claim is fraudulent. The ALA is lying in order to create an alarming story that simply doesn't exist. Why would the ALA open itself up to a lawsuit from Big Tobacco by making fraudulent claims about these companies' marketing practices? Apparently, the ALA must perceive that the truth is simply too damaging to reveal to the public.
Here is the truth:
Fact #1: None of the U.S. tobacco companies that sell electronic cigarettes market disposable products in flavors other than tobacco (classic) or menthol. Note that the disposable products are the ones that are relevant to children because they are the cheapest and most likely to be used by kids. It is very unlikely that kids are going to unleash the money required to purchase the charging kit. Blu offers rechargeable starter kits that do contain flavorings, but
does not offer atomic fireball, cotton candy, or gummy bear. However, kids would have to shell out a minimum of $70 for the starter kit.
Here are the available electronic cigarette flavors offered by Big Tobacco:
Blu (Lorillard): [disposable]
a. Classic tobacco
Mark Ten (Philip Morris/Altria): [These products are a combination of disposable/rechargeable]
Vuse (R. J. Reynolds): [rechargeable]
Blu (Lorillard): [starter kits - rechargeable]
a. Classic tobacco
c. Java jolt
d. Cherry crush
f. Pina colada
g. Peach schnapps
Fact #2: In contrast to the ALA's assertion, the Big Tobacco companies are actively avoiding the marketing of candy-flavored electronic cigarettes to children.
Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds are only offering original and menthol flavors.
Lorillard is not offering candy-flavored disposable electronic cigarettes. This is perhaps the clearest signal that the tobacco companies are not marketing flavors to children. It should be obvious to the American Lung Association, if they put any thought into their op-ed piece, that the best way to judge Lorillard's intentions is to examine the differences between their starter kit flavors (the ones which require you to shell out 70 bucks) and their disposable flavors (the ones which kids are most likely to use). In fact, while the starter kit flavors do include candy varieties, the disposables do not. This is a clear sign that Lorillard is not interested in offering candy-flavored electronic cigarettes to the youth market.
In fact, Blu was already offering these candy-flavored varieties prior to its acquisition by Lorillard. It is understandable while Lorillard maintained these flavors, since it wouldn't want to lose existing Blu customers. But it is telling that Lorillard chose not to extend this candy-flavored approach over to its disposable e-cigarette segment. If the ALA's assertion were correct, then Lorillard would most certainly be selling candy-flavored disposable electronic cigarettes.
So the rest of the story is that:
1. Big Tobacco is not "happy to hook children with a gummy bear-flavored e-cigarette."
2. Big Tobacco is not marketing cotton candy or atomic fireball cigarettes to youth.
3. The American Lung Association is lying.
Why this apparent need to lie? Perhaps it is because the truth is too inconvenient for the American Lung Association to accept. The truth is that rather than "forging a new pathway to addiction, death and disease," as the op-ed's title suggests, electronic cigarettes are doing exactly the opposite. They are helping smokers break their addiction to cigarettes and thereby preventing death and disease.
Why would this fact be "inconvenient" or "damaging" for the American Lung Association? I believe it is because the ideology in the ALA is so strong that there is simply not room in its mindset for a behavior that looks like smoking to possibly have positive features or benefits. I believe that concept is just too difficult for the ALA to accept. They are not alone. I believe that most anti-smoking groups are not prepared or able to face this fact.
This is one situation where I think it is safe to say: "The American Lung Association cannot handle the truth."