Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

April 18, 2014

Stop big tobacco from promoting e-cigarettes

The tobacco industry is sharply raising spending on advertisements and other marketing for electronic cigarettes to try to make smoking glamorous again and hook a new generation of Americans on nicotine.

We shouldn’t let them get away with it.

If adults choose to “vape” — inhale nicotine-laced vapor from battery-powered e-cigarettes — then they should be free to do so.

But that doesn’t mean the public should allow Big Tobacco to use its billions to build a new mass market for a consumer product scientifically proved to be very addictive.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it intends to extend its regulatory authority to include e-cigarettes and might recommend banning television and radio advertising. It should do so quickly, before a half-century of progress in combating smoking is undone.

I was only vaguely aware of the debate over vaping when I recently saw a TV ad for blu brand e-cigarettes that made me gasp.

It showed a slim, jeans-wearing “tough guy” puffing while appearing shirtless before an urban skyline, attending a concert and strolling through Inca ruins in Peru.

“For us smokers, times have changed,” the actor, B-list celebrity Stephen Dorff, says. “But a few things remain the same. Our desire to explore. To adventure. To roam without boundaries. With blu, we can still be ourselves. After all, this country was founded on free will. Embrace it. Chase it.”

How’s that for combining manliness, style and individualism? I was dumbfounded to see again the psychological pitch of cigarette ads that I grew up watching before a 1970 law forced them off the airwaves.

The similarity is no coincidence. Lorillard Tobacco, which makes blu, also manufactures Newport and Kent.

Another blu ad wields equally familiar sex appeal. Actress and former Playboy centerfold Jenny McCarthy, wearing a low-cut dress, vapes blus while flirting with a man in a bar.

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