A “Healthy” Alternative or the Latest Trick?
Posted by Adam Benforado on June 3, 2009
According to a report, “Deadly in Pink,” published last February,
The nation’s two largest tobacco companies—Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds—have launched new marketing campaigns that depict cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable to counter the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy.
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These new marketing campaigns represent the most aggressive efforts by the tobacco industry to target women and girls in at least a decade. These campaigns are jeopardizing the progress the United States has made in reducing smoking and once again putting the health of women and girls at risk.
The strategy has involved revised product design, new advertising, and promotional offers.
In January 2007, R.J. Reynolds launched a new version of its Camel cigarette, called Camel No. 9, packaged in shiny black boxes with hot pink and teal borders. The name evoked famous Chanel perfumes, and the marketing campaign associated the brand with romance and glamour through magazine ads that featured flowery imagery and vintage fashion. “Light and luscious” promised the first ads in the campaign. “Now available in stiletto” and “dressed to the 9s,” read a later magazine ad that pitched a thin version of the cigarette to “the most fashion forward woman.”
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Ads for Camel No. 9 ran in magazines popular with both women and girls, including Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and InStyle. Promotional giveaways have included flavored lip balm, cell phone jewelry, tiny purses and wristbands, all in hot pink. The marketing campaign prompted the Oregonian newspaper to editorialize that R.J. Reynolds, which once marketed to kids with the now-banned Joe Camel cartoon character, was doing it again with “Barbie Camel.”
Although this marketing appears to have been effective, the greatest coup for the cigarette industry in hooking children and undermining “the growing public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy” may come from without.
According to an article in the New York Times, the savior for the industry may be the electronic cigarette.
The battery-powered device . . . [sold] online deliver[s] an odorless dose of nicotine and flavoring without cigarette tar or additives, and produce[s] a vapor mist nearly identical in appearance to tobacco smoke.
. . . .
That electronic cigarettes are unapproved by the government and virtually unstudied has not deterred thousands of smokers from flocking to mall kiosks and the Internet to buy them. And because they produce no smoke, they can be used in workplaces, restaurants and airports. One distributor is aptly named Smoking Everywhere.
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The reaction of medical authorities and antismoking groups has ranged from calls for testing to skepticism to outright hostility. Opponents say the safety claims are more rumor than anything else, since the components of e-cigarettes have never been tested for safety.
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In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has already refused entry to dozens of shipments of e-cigarettes coming into the country, mostly from China, the chief maker of them, where manufacture began about five years ago.
. . . .
For $100 to $150 or so, a user can buy a starter kit including a battery-powered cigarette and replaceable cartridges that typically contain nicotine (though cartridges can be bought without it), flavoring and propylene glycol, a liquid whose vaporizing produces the smokelike mist. When a user inhales, a sensor heats the cartridge. The flavorings include tobacco, menthol and cherry, and the levels of nicotine vary by cartridge.
Even leaving aside whether the e-cigarettes are safe (it is worth noting that sales and use of them are illegal in Australia and Hong Kong on just such grounds), there is a significant danger that, with their ease of use, fruity flavors, and “coolness,” they may be especially appealing to children.
“It looks like a cigarette and is marketed as a cigarette,” said Jonathan P. Winickoff, an associate professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium. “There’s nothing that prevents youth from getting addicted to nicotine.”
With big bucks on the line, there are countless interests urging the government to wait to act on e-cigarettes until the smoke clears. The funny thing is that this time there’s no smoke.
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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Changing Face of Marketing?,” “Market Manipulation – Assuaging Cognitive Dissonance,” and “Without the Filter,” “Deep Capture – Part VII,” and “Promoting Smoking through Situation.”