Tobacco ads are restricted, should the same go for e-cigarettes?
September 11, 2013 | Chris Powell | Comments
As little kids we used to buy Popeye candy cigarettes and pretend to smoke outside the local convenience store. The effect was particularly great in the winter months, when our breath would create plumes of “smoke” around our heads. Hey look, I’m just like Uncle Teddy, minus the yellow fingers and hacking cough.
Popeye cigarettes are now referred to as Popeye candy sticks, but there’s a 21st century equivalent: E-cigarettes. The device consists of a plastic tube housing heat-producing batteries and a chamber holding liquid that either comes in flavours or can be nicotine-based (none with nicotine have been authorized by Health Canada to date). When the two are combined, it creates a vapour that can be drawn into the lungs and exhaled – just like a real cigarette.
E-cigarettes ostensibly debuted as a cessation aid, but there are growing concerns that they are a gateway to tobacco, particularly for younger Canadians. A study conducted by Leger Marketing – and commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society – found that nearly a quarter of 18-24 year olds have used e-cigarettes in the past year, compared with only 9% of the general population.
Now the CCS’s Quebec division is taking aim at e-cigarettes, calling on the government to include a provision regulating e-cigarettes in the Tobacco Act. The provision would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and control their advertising/promotion.
Tobacco advertising has been severely restricted in Canada since 2003, when the Tobacco Act forced tobacco companies to butt out of corporate sponsorship, effectively closing off one of their few remaining marketing avenues.
Canada still permits limited tobacco advertising in direct mail addressed to an identified adult, establishments where minors are not permitted by law and publications with a minimum 85% adult readership.
Gary Garland, executive director of advertising services for Magazines Canada, said earlier this year that there is currently little or no tobacco marketing activity in Canadian magazines. “From what we can tell, tobacco manufacturers are not approaching magazines,” said Garland. “Plus, many publishers, by way of editorial policy, do not accept tobacco advertising.”
Some e-cigarette brands, however, are actively promoting their product. One brand, ePuffer, is currently in the midst of a “Canadian tour” that includes a stop at the Converge 3.0 event taking place this week around part of the Toronto International Film Festival. Earlier this year, proclaiming that “smoking is sexy again,” ePuffer in the U.S. sampled its products at the Oscars.
But e-cigarettes could soon find themselves ostracized by media outlets just like their tobacco brethren. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected this fall to propose a ban on TV advertising, where spending on e-cigarette commercials rose 17.9% in 2012 from the previous year.