Saturday, September 14, 2013


So cigarette commercials have returned to television.

This really shouldn't be, as cigarette ads were banned from American television in 1970 and smokeless tobacco ads were banned in 1986. But then there's the matter of e-cigarettes, which work by vaporizing liquid tobacco. E-cigarettes are not, as of yet, regulated by the FDA, and there are currently no federal laws covering them, so the tobacco industry has taken them and run with them, supporters arguing that there isn't as much tobacco in them as a regular cigarette and that it isn't disturbing anyone else and that it might actually help people stop smoking.

Perhaps it might. But it's not being marketed as a stop-smoking aid. It's being marketed as a start-smoking aid, complete with suave-looking guy in an ad there to assure you that smoking is cool, and some people- children, in fact- have been seen to use e-cigarettes as a gateway to real cigarettes. In fact, usage among middle and high school students doubled from 2011 to 2012 according to the Center for Disease Control, the vast majority of students using reporting that they were also using conventional cigarettes (and that's a little young to be having to use e-cigarettes as a weaning device). It doesn't exactly help matters that e-cigarettes are sold in flavors such as- and I'm deliberately not going to link this because I don't want to hand out that kind of traffic- "Pina Colada", "Peach Schnapps", "Java Jolt", "Tiramisu", "French Toast", "Cinnamon Apple Crumble", "Tahitian Punch", "Caramel Popcorn", "Bubble Gum", "Salt Water Taffy", and "Tutti Frutti". Among many, many, many others.

Only 20 states, by the way, currently forbid selling e-cigarettes to children. And the bulk of lifelong smokers, 88% according to the CDC, start as children. The FDA did ban them in 2009, but a court overruled them in 2010, saying the FDA was lacking sufficient evidence that e-cigarettes were harmful, and this is the result. (A ban on flavored cigarettes, also enacted in 2009, has held.)

As far as the stop-smoking-aid claims, a study in New Zealand tested that claim against nicotine patches and placebo e-cigarettes. The results came out that none of the three did all that great, and while 7.3% of those getting the nicotine-filled e-cigarettes said it helped, which technically led the field but not by a significant amount, compare that 7.3% to the 10% of high school students picking up e-cigarettes at least once found by the CDC. Any status it has as a stop-smoking aid is, at least from the numbers showing, completely negated by its competing status as a gateway drug.

And really, think logically here. What in the world would the tobacco industry be doing seriously promoting something as a stop-smoking aid, or something they knew was causing people to stop smoking? 'Yes, we'd like to go out of business, please. Buy this object that will one day cost us all our jobs.' One can talk until one is blue in the face about, oh, say, whether it's the actual tobacco that's causing all those health problems related to smoking or whether it's just the tar and additives doing that. Which is apparently a debate that's happening. But as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. And the tobacco industry is going to take whatever action causes as many people as possible to use tobacco products as much as possible. It is not up for debate that nicotine is addictive, so that base is covered. You are not marketing "bubble gum" and "tutti frutti" to adults. You are not getting some rugged-looking guy to smolder in front of a camera and have him tell people to go try 'salt water taffy'. Someone looking to stop smoking probably isn't going for any flavor at all, because why would you want to make something you're trying to quit taste good?

And even independent of health issues, why do you take it up these days anyway? To look cool? After the past couple decades, who the hell looks cool with a tobacco product of any kind in their mouth anymore? You don't look cool. You look like an inconsiderate jackass who'd rather be puffing away in rain or snow or whatever it's doing outside than actually socializing with anyone that isn't also puffing away in whatever it's doing outside. You're being a self-selected pariah. People with cigarettes in their mouths stopped looking cool sometime around the 80's. (Let's not even get into cigars and chewing tobacco.)

You might as well smoke a Betamax. That'd probably be about as healthy.

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