In the business world, particularly the cinema and fashion industries, the youth are seen the perfect target audience. We are often more sensitive to trends and, if our friends have something, we want it too. In general, we tend to give less thought to consequences because we tend to focus on the current benefits rather than the future disadvantages. Older people are certainly not exempt from this either, but are probably less vulnerable to peer pressure and commercial manipulation than we are. This is no secret, and the manufacturers of e-cigarettes are more than aware of this fact. It is business after all. So, are e-cigarette brands purposely trying to make customers out of the country’s youth?
Let’s take e-cigarette brand Blu as an example. Some of their advertising involves provocative imagery, equally provocative slogans and celebrity influence from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, none of which specifically target young people but would be likely to appeal to some of them. Blu eCigs are owned by Lorillard, which became the first big tobacco company to enter the e-cigarettes market in 2012, and now has a 49% share of the e-cigarette market. The advertising of traditional cigarettes has been banned for decades, so the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes offers an unprecedented opportunity to market and therefore make as much money as possible. What’s more, traditional cigarette sales in the US have been shrinking an average 3 percent a year. Of course these companies are going to do everything in their power to gain as many customers as possible – the ads don’t just target existing smokers because there are monetary opportunities elsewhere and, naturally, they’re going to exploit the leeway they’ve been given until they’re stopped by law. There may be an ethical dilemma to what may possibly encourage new smokers, but businessmen aren’t known for their high moral standing.
Consequentially, or perhaps coincidentally, Centers for Disease Control report that schools across the country are reporting an increase in e-cigarette usage, and school administrators are struggling to create policies that curb their usage or outright ban them. With the lack of regulation, not much can be done to prevent the products from being made attractive to young people. For instance, they are available in a range of different flavours, such as strawberry, banana, or even classic tobacco. This is not to say that this will lead to an increase in actual smoking, however.
At the heart of it, even having the word ‘cigarette’ in the title is enough to make e-cigarettes attractive to young people: they like to rebel. This isn’t true in all cases, of course, but very often teens are tempted to do things they aren’t supposed to do for simply that. This has been true for generations in regards to every harmful substance ever to be sold for recreation. At least e-cigarettes don’t yet show signs of being harmful to general health, at least not on the scale of traditional cigarettes.