National Tobacco Expert Calls out Vape for “Prolonging the Life of the Tobacco Industry”

February 14th, 2019

Dr. Stanton Glantz, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, spoke to Colorado healthcare professionals Wednesday at the CU Cancer Center. Held in partnership with the Colorado School of Public Health, Glantz’s presentation addressed the main concerns he sees in the vaping industry’s tactics.

“While e-cigarettes were designed to help people quit smoking, for the great bulk of people they make it harder to quit. E-cigarettes are prolonging the life of the tobacco industry and making the problem worse,” Glantz said.

Key takeaways from the address included:

  • Like the tobacco industry, vape marketers promote the idea that you will find social connection if you are a user. “Cigarette ads used to target different audiences with different messages: ‘Smoke to be more masculine/feminine. To stand out/fit in.  To be elegant/grungy.’ With this marketing segmentation, the industry reiterated the message that if you use their product, it will improve your social standing with the people you care about. This is as true with e-cigarette promotions as it was with traditional cigarettes,” Glantz said.
  • The e-cigarette industry has created a new demographic of dual users. While many people start using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, they often don’t receive the proper support, and can end up using a combination of cigarettes and e-cigarettes, maintaining sales in both categories. Studies have found that daily cigarette smokers had an increase in risk of heart attacks by 2.8 percent; e-cigarette users had an increase in risk by 1.8 percent. For dual users, you get the compound effect of both.
  • Vape companies are predominantly owned by tobacco companies, so the view that vape is disruptive is to the tobacco industry is incorrect.
  • Advertising has contributed greatly to continued and prolonged tobacco use and nicotine addiction in America. “If you wanted to promote Juul as as way to quit smoking, you wouldn’t be targeting ads on Instagram to young 20-somethings. You would advertise them to adults around the evening news,” Glantz said.
  • Many e-cigarette brands collect and use consumption data from users, using the digital ports used to charge the devices to collect information about how frequently users are using. The Blu brand of e-cigarettes comes in a Bluetooth-enabled carton that is designed to vibrate when another pack is nearby, reinforcing the feeling of normalcy – and even creating a sense of community – for the product user.
  • E-cigarettes are misleadingly sold next to FDA-approved smoking cessation devices at retail stores and pharmacies, creating the image that e-cigarettes have also been approved by the FDA to help people quit, which isn’t true.
  • Flavors play a crucial role in recruiting and retaining youth e-cigarette users. The huge variety of flavors promotes discussion among kids, adding to the social element and prolonging use as kids try different flavors.

For more on how the vape industry is impacting teens in Colorado, access our research and resources.