“Marketing to kids.” That is the battle cry from the anti-vaping folks. The Still Blowing Smoke TV ads rely on this message. Now we are seeing the same message repeated by people within the vape community. When we begin to believe what the opponents are saying, then we lose. The truth is that I have never once seen an eliquid company market to kids. What I have seen is marketing using nostalgia. I’ve seen the use of brand recognition to sell a flavor. At times companies teeter on the border of copyright infringement. At other times, they cross that line. Not once have I seen a vapor company outright target minors.
Targeting minors would first mean that kids could buy the product. As a community and an industry, we have fought to prevent the sale of vape products to minors. The vape industry aims to market to kids as much as Ferrari and Budweiser do. We sell a product that is neither affordable or legal for kids to buy. Whether they are able to get these products is not relevant. Minors have always been able to get their hands on alcohol and tobacco products. This is in spite of any laws or preventive measures.
I understand why companies would want to brand in such a way to create familiarity. We do not condone the use of any copyrighted material. This is illegal, lazy and amateur. The copyright infringement matter is wrong and companies should stop immediately. That is not debatable.
Now on to the other questions. Are cartoon-like characters on an eliquid label okay? What about candy or cereal flavors? What about colorful labels?
Cartoon-like characters on labels: Shows like Family Guy are cartoons that target adult viewers. Regardless, that show may still attract younger viewers. Things can be attractive to kids without the producers meaning for them to be. What’s attractive to adults is likely to be attractive to everyone. Expensive cars, money, power, beautiful people. Give a Playboy to a male teenager and I bet he will take interest. What actually is attractive only to adults? Politics. Maybe.
Candy or cereal flavors? If there is no copyright infringement, there should be no issues with any flavors. Just go to the dessert area of any buffet and keep a tab on the number of senior citizens you see. There’s a reason why grandma always had candy. She ate them when we weren’t there. Yes, adults like candy and cereal flavors. Lots of people do.
Colorful labels. This one is just silly. Colors are not exclusive to kids. Certain fonts are not exclusive to kids. Certain designs may remind adults of their childhood, but that is more about nostalgia. It is about familiarity with stuff from the past.
As an industry, we should be careful which talking points we regurgitate. If there is merit to any of the opposition’s points, we should discuss them. We should not just take them as truths in and of themselves. They may be half-truths or even lies.
What we should do as an industry is to grow, mature and evolve. We should change any labels that can be mistaken as “marketed to children.” Not because of outside threats, but because we can do better. We don’t need to be nostalgic, we need to look to the future. We need a look that reflects our maturing industry. I agree, we should definitely stand up against copyright infringement. I just don’t agree with our opponents when they say we are marketing to kids. Kids can’t afford what we have to offer and we can’t afford to offer it to them. Anyway, there are more than enough adult smokers to keep us busy.