WINSTON-SALEM — For the first time since the Nixon administration, a Reynolds American Inc. tobacco product is going to be advertised on television.
The large e-cig marketers may be trying to get as much exposure and adult smoker trial as they can before FDA regulation is set, said Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center of Retail Innovation at Wake Forest Schools of Business.
“Typically when tobacco regulations come out, they can serve to freeze or dictate market share,” Beahm said. “Reynolds may not be national with Vuse when regulations go into effect, but the advertising it can do could help separate Vuse.”
Bill Godshall, an industry analyst and executive director of SmokeFree Pennsylvania, has said he is concerned the FDA may try to ban e-cigs in what he considers a “misguided attempt to apply the quit-or-die approach to all tobacco products.”
Anti-tobacco advocates pushing for the ban of online e-cigs sales say it is necessary to keep the products out of the hands of minors. Some of the same advocates consider e-cigs – as well as smokeless tobacco and dissolvable tobacco products – as potential gateways to traditional cigarettes use.
“It is a more sophisticated ad that is less blatant in targeting young people and non-smokers than many of the others we have seen,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Bloomberg News.
“It does glamorize smoking. It does make the act of smoking Vuse a 21st-century activity clearly designed to appeal to a broader public than committed smokers.”
E-cigs “likely pose less direct hazard to the individual smoker than tobacco cigarettes and might help smokers quit smoking or reduce harm by smoking fewer tobacco cigarettes,” former FDA adviser Dr. Neal Benowitz co-wrote in a July 15 report. “On the other hand, there are potential harms, including promoting continued smoking of cigarettes and renormalizing cigarette smoking behaviors.”
Beahm said Reynolds has done a good job in the Vuse TV ad of “trying to minimize the actual smoking aspect of Vuse and making no health claims, which they can’t. But you can’t eliminate the temptation and appeal to try any new product.”
Gregory Conley, legislative director for the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, said Reynolds may be willing to trade off a new wave of criticism over the Vuse TV ad for the publicity the ads may gain among Colorado smokers. “After all, who would turn down free publicity?” he asked.