Friday, January 22, 2016

Real Vaping Issues: Marketing to Children

In this series, I plan to address REAL vaping issues that face us as consumers, owners and an industry as a whole.  Please keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their opinion and this is just mine.  It may not reflect my customers, vendors, or employees, and I may say some things that you either agree or disagree with.
In the first installment, I want to discuss a very hot topic lately: Marketing To Children.  I have witnessed several Facebook groups discussing this topic and have read statements posted regarding the FDA’s stance on future regulation of e-liquids.  It seems that the consensus is that packaging and labels that have bright colors, have cartoon characters or use names that resemble childhood treats, that those companies are “marketing” to children.  And in an industry that is on the verge of strict regulations, misconceptions and false information, this is not the kind of ammunition we want to give to the lawmakers, politicians and general opposition.
We know that vaping is on the rise.  Smoking has declined and vaping has increased.  This is across the board, but one demographic that continues to be dragged into it is minors.  They are more likely to vape now than smoke.  And do you know why this is?  I can tell you it’s NOT because of the packaging of the products.  Its because smoking is not cool anymore.  People know now, without a shadow of a doubt that tar and other carcinogens with smoking causes cancer and cancer causes death.  And the younger generation now has an alternative to the cancer-causing sticks of the older generations.  They also have better tasting, less stinky options like fruity flavors, dessert flavors, drink flavors, etc.  It’s a lot easier to hide the vape smell from your parents than cigarettes.
Older generations didnt have this option and the media glorified smoking.  Movie stars, Hollywood bad boys, the cool kids at school and work, hell, even doctors and nurses smoked, so if you wanted to be cool and fit in, you rolled a pack of lucky strikes up in your white t-shirt sleeve and slicked your hair back.  That was COOL!
Fred Friggin Flintstone was in a damn Winston commercial in the 1950s!  But I genuinely don’t believe this was intentionally done to get KIDS to smoke.  Back then, the entire family would gather around the TV and watch the show.  It wasnt like it is now where every pre-teen has multiple “tvs” in front of their faces 24×7, watching television was a treat for those who could afford it and it was something people did as a family.  And in that family, there were adults.  The cigarette companies knew this, so there were commercials to say “Hey Mom & Dad, here’s something for you too”.  They used cartoons as a vehicle to reach a larger population and not to start kids on smoking (although this may have indirectly been the result).  Perhaps later as they realized the growth and profit opportunities, the thought crossed the minds of big tobacco to get younger people hooked on cigarettes earlier in life, but I dont think that was their initial intention.
The same thing is going on in the beer and alcohol industry.  How many commercials of hot guys and pool party bikini chicks, or showing, “hey you drink our shit and you will party your balls off”.  Do you think that’s appealing to 14 years olds – hell yeah it is.  Hey, I’m 14 and I want to be surrounded by hot chicks.. maybe I’ll start drinking bacardi or miller lite or whatever.  Walk into any liquor store and there are bottles of vodka with flavors like fruit loops, cotton candy, cake and marshmallows.  How can liquor, something that is a bazillion times more dangerous than vaping beable  to do this?  Oh that’s right, because it’s government regulated AND TAXED!
Let me be clear about this, bright colors, cartoons and candy names DO NOT ONLY APPEAL TO KIDS!  This whole statement that by using these characteristics for e-liquids somehow makes kids more likely to vape is absolutely absurd.  The stories about kids drinking nicotine and dying, that is a parenting issue, not a vaping issue.  If more people would take part in their kids lives instead of being brought up by the internet, this wouldnt be an issue.  People are always quick to blame someone else for their problems.
Ask any e-liquid maker if they designed their flavors and bottle design to be attractive to  minors.  It’s NOT what any of us are about.  We have signs on our shop door that say “Must Be 18+ or Older to Enter”.  We check IDs and we do our best to make sure that we are being responsible business owners.  We don’t want vape products to be abused or get into the hands of children.  For me personally, I have used e-cigs/vaping to quit smoking and I know many of my customers are too and that is why we continue to support this industry.  It’s making a change in those people’s lives that make the real difference.