Thursday, July 02, 2015

Public Health Law Center Lies to Public About Tobacco Companies Marketing of Flavored E-Cigarettes

According to a new legal update from the Public Health Law Center, tobacco companies are marketing electronic cigarettes to kids with kid-friendly flavors that include watermelon, Son of a Beach, vanilla malt, popcorn, s’mores, kettle corn, colas, Pizza Pia, chocolate ice cream, and pink lemonade.

The document claims as follows:

"Summer is finally upon us. If you don’t have time to picnic, visit the beach, or go camping, no problem. You can buy your fill of vacation flavors at your nearest tobacco or e-cigarette store — either at a brick and mortar establishment or online. In fact, no matter the season, tobacco product and e-cigarette manufacturers continue to produce seasonally inspired flavors such as watermelon, Son of a Beach, vanilla malt, popcorn, s’mores, kettle corn, colas, Pizza Pia, chocolate ice cream, and pink lemonade in what are euphemistically described as “kid-friendly flavors."

Clearly, the document is claiming that tobacco companies are marketing electronic cigarettes in flavors that include watermelon, Son of a Beach, vanilla malt, popcorn, s’mores, kettle corn, colas, Pizza Pia, chocolate ice cream, and pink lemonade.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that this claim is not true. None of the tobacco companies are marketing e-cigarettes in any of the above flavors.

Here is a complete list of all the flavors offered by tobacco companies (this list does not include Chinese tobacco companies, whose products are not marketed in the U.S.; it is complete to the best of my knowledge):

Reynolds American (Vuse)

Altria (Mark Ten)
Winter Mint

Imperial (blu)
Cherry Crush
Vivid Vanilla
Pina Colada
Peach Schnapps
Carolina Bold

Green Smoke (owned by Altria)
Mocha Mist
Smooth Cream
Mountain Clove

E-Lites (owned by Japan Tobacco)

Skycig (acquired by Blu, which was acquired by Imperial)
Crown Vanilla
Crown Cherry

British American Tobacco (Vype)
Crisp Mint
Dark Cherry
Infused Vanilla
Fresh Apple

Imperial (Puritane)

Imperial (Jai)

Nicolites (owned by Nicocigs, acquired by Philip Morris International)

Intellicig (I believe owned by British American Tobacco) (RiZe and ECO e-liquids)
Turkish Gold
French Vanilla
Cigar Aficianado

None of the flavors that the Public Health Law Center claims are being marketed to kids by tobacco companies are actually being marketed by tobacco companies. All of the flavors they mention are being marketed by independent electronic cigarette companies.

To be clear, I completely support the work that the Public Health Law Center is doing in tobacco control, and this is not a criticism of their mission or work. However, I just don't see why it is necessary to lie to the public in order to make its point about how electronic cigarettes are being made in a large variety of what seem to be "kid-friendly" flavors. Why not just point out that electronic cigarettes are being marketed in these flavors without claiming that it is the tobacco companies which are producing these flavored products?

The truth is that the major U.S. tobacco companies (and Imperial, which acquired blu e-cigs from Lorillard) are offering very few "kid-friendly" flavors. The two biggest U.S. tobacco companies (Altria and Reynolds American) are marketing their e-cigarettes only in tobacco/original, menthol, crema, chai, fusion, and winter mint flavors. And while blu e-cigarettes are available in kid-friendly flavors such as pina colada and peach schnapps, these two flavors are only available for the rechargeable kits (which start at $35), not as disposable products, which are likely to be more popular among kids because of the price of the starter kits.

I am not arguing here that flavored electronic cigarettes do not appeal to children, that measures to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes are unwarranted, or that restriction of marketing of e-cigarettes to minors is not needed. However, it seems to me that the basic point could have been made without resorting to lying to the public.

I don't mean to pick on the Public Health Law Center. Readers of this blog know that there are numerous tobacco control organizations and health agencies that are lying to the public about electronic cigarettes. What I don't understand is why electronic cigarette opponents need to resort to misleading and deceiving the public to make their points. The only logical explanation appears to be that the truth simply does not support their position, so they have to resort to lies.

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