Vaping, tobacco and the coming PR crisis

Vaping is still new enough that PR professionals and advertising executives still don’t quite know what to make of it. The industry is still relatively young and faces far fewer regulations than tobacco cigarettes, and unlike Big Tobacco, the vaping industry is dominated by smaller players with no single provider yet rising to the top. The public is only just now coming to recognize that vaping isn’t cigarettes – and legitimate studies are starting to come out proving that it is a safer alternative and a realistic smoking cessation tool.

Yet there remains misconceptions and ill-conceived laws, such as San Francisco’s draconian Proposition E, which bans all flavored vaping liquids completely. A curious and one-sided bill, proponents of Proposition E single out flavored vaping products, no doubt while sipping their Fireball whiskey and enjoying a nice appletini. The proposition passed largely based on inaccurate information and unproven claims that flavored vaping is targeted at an underage audience.

PR professionals are faced with a unique dilemma: They do have more freedom in executing PR and ad campaigns than do cigarette manufacturers, and they need to use that platform as a means of disseminating accurate and realistic information, especially when faced with a new era of Prohibition being launched in San Francisco.

The days of “Nine out of ten doctors smoke Camel cigarettes” are over, and it’s a good thing. “That sort of blatant propaganda is what triggered the complete shutdown of cigarette advertising decades ago,” said Todd Skezas, CEO and co-founder of San Diego-based Vapor Authority. “The vaping industry today is far more diligent and eager to offer truth in advertising, and the campaigns being mounted by these mostly smaller companies tend to be information-based. And unlike older tobacco campaigns which leveraged privately-funded and mostly one-sided studies, we have far more legitimate sources of research today to show that vaping is a safer alternative, and that it is effective as a smoking cessation tool.”

Skezas is right on target with that assessment, and the American Cancer Society – a leader in the battle against tobacco products – is having a PR crisis of their own, as they struggle to discourage any nicotine usage, but at the same time acknowledge current research that proves vaping is safer. The ACS recently issued a statement on vaping, saying “Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the health effects of long-term use are not known.”

Do nine out of ten doctors vape? We won’t be making any claims to that effect, but instead, those in the vaping industry in charge of PR campaigns will be using legitimate, information-based studies to inform their audience and encourage them to think for themselves. That’s the best type of PR campaign the vaping industry could undertake, and what will be best for the industry as well as for the general public.