Irresponsible marketing by parts of the e-cigarette industry requires immediate measures


By Dr Farsalinos

There is a lot of discussion in the US about e-cigarette use by youth. The Surgeon General recently released a report sounding the alarm about adolescents using e-cigarettes. Numerous publications and statements from health institutes, such as the CDC, have long supported that e-cigarette use is increasing among youth and is becoming a public health problem.

I know very well, by looking at the data in more detail, that frequent (i.e. regular) use of e-cigarettes by US adolescents is quite low and not very different from other regions (I will publish a couple of studies about it in the next few months). However, there is no doubt that there is a very negative environment in the US for e-cigarettes, and this unfortunately has unintended consequences on the perceptions of adult smokers (or even healthcare professionals) about the product.

One would expect a “clever” industry to take measures to minimize the negative publicity, produce best quality possible products, minimize appeal to youth, strictly follow a “no sales to youth” policy and take every necessary measure to create an image of a responsible and serious industry with consumer responsibility. A characteristic example is the European market where a self-implemented rule for child-resistant packaging was applied almost universally years ago and long before any regulation. However, I was really shocked when I received yesterday some photos of products (liquids) from a very recent vapexpo in the US.




Of course such cases exist in Europe too. However, unlike Europe where they represent a very small minority, my very credible source told me that 30-40% of displayed products in that US vapexpo were of similar packaging. I wonder if there is anyone who thinks that the use of cartoons and funny graphics and the names of these products is not going to be perceived as appealing, and an attempt to actively promote the products, to youth. In my opinion, this is absolutely unacceptable and a clear indication of irresponsible behavior and marketing tactics. Even if there is no such genuine intention, none will be convinced. This is irresponsible behavior not only from the producers, but also from the retailers who sell these products and from the vapers who buy these products. Besides the regulators, who will do their job, the responsible part of the e-cigarette industry must immediately target and expel these members, while retailers should request the removal of such labels and packaging design or deny getting such products for retail. All these senseless marketing tactics will hurt not only the healthy part of the industry (which is not my job to support or care for) but, most importantly, smokers and vapers, because this situation will definitely result in a restriction of flavors availability. This situation needs to be strongly condemned and criticized, and action needs to be taken to remove such products from the market. 



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