Over the last decade, e-cigarette use, called vaping, has risen dramatically across the US. There are arguments from advocates and detractors alike about the potential effects of vaping versus smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes. Vaping has a relatively short history compared to the long and sordid story of the rise and fall of smoking hype. But, vaping – like smoking – is subject to similar scrutiny about its efficacy as a cessation tool and its chemical composition, among other variables. Regardless of the position of a particular study, governing body, or outspoken party, one thing about vaping remains the same as its paper counterpart: Celebrities are often hired to market its appeal.
A Brief History of Smoking Advertising
Film and television catapulted cigarettes into the domain of cool as early as the 1950s. Among some of Hollywood’s elite at the time, icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marlene Dietrich, and Marlon Brando epitomized the look of smoker chiq. That look caught on, and soon advertising campaigns across country appeared on every television screen to promote cigarettes as a socially acceptable activity. Chief among those adverts were those featuring the masculine figure known as the Marlboro Man, created by tobacco giant Philip Morris, who was paired with the slogan, “For man’s flavor, come to Marlboro Country.” The more the cool of smoking took hold, the more demographics were marketed to with fashion and cool at the forefront of the message. No longer were cigarettes specifically for elite social classes, and often specifically women, as they were advertised and marketed in the 1920s-40s. Smoking became an everyday, and everyman, household activity. And the trend continued into other social demographics as well.
“You’ve come a long way (baby),” an advert slogan for Virginia Slims (also manufactured by Philip Morris) featured in women’s magazines and on televisions throughout the 1960s. A key difference between the original Marlboro adverts of the flapper generation and their Virginia Slim campaign was to appeal to the “working girl” class of the age. The social acceptability and “cool” that came with the look of smoking prevailed throughout the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s in film and television, despite the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1970. The law forbade explicit advertising by the tobacco industry in television and radio. As radio gave way to video anyway, film and television relied entirely on the continued image of smoking as chiq to be portrayed by celebrity characters on the big and small screens. One of the most iconic is the X-Files’ “Smoking Man,” despite smoking a fictitious brand of smokes called Morley. Eventually, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) determined that smoking may result in a more restrictive rating for a film, arguing that more youth were influenced to smoke when seeing famed actors and actresses indulging. By the turn of the century, smoking had all but evaporated (pun intended) into obscurity as an act of sophistication and perceived cool.
The Modern Faces of Vaping
Recently, vape manufacturers (some of whom are also cigarette manufacturers) have revived the tradition of celebrity spokespersons to market and sell the image of their products. Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff have done television commercials for Blu E-Cigarettes, allowed because currently e-cigarettes are not classified as tobacco products by the FDA, and are thus allowed to market in television and radio. But, before the mass campaigning of e-cigarette companies, even, actors like Corey Feldman were advocating for their use. Now, there is a vast and growing list of famous folk who openly discuss their preference for vaping over smoking. Actor, Charlie Hunnam, discussed his transition to vaping after having become addicted to cigarettes during his role on the popular television series, Sons of Anarchy. There are various reasons celebrities advocate for causes close to them, but the saleability of e-cigarettes in modern marketplaces has driven some high profile figures to proffer an aesthetic along with the act.
In the news just within the last week, for example, is a new line of vapes by KandyPens. The vape company has launched a large marketing campaign and has partnered with celebrity figure, Amber Rose, to promote a signature line of vape products. Rose is displayed prominently across the company’s site banner in a video advert style graphic. Rose has also posted her own Instagram photos and appeared in KandyPens’ Instagram promoting the product. In a press statement, the entrepreneur describes that she wants users to feel “a celebration when they inhale.” The move to promote the product on social media is, no doubt, a response to a 2016 ruling by the FDA to extend regulation of tobacco products to e-cigarettes and other vape products. It looks like marketing teams are already ahead of the game, however, having shifted their focus to web-based campaigns and aligning with social media personalities for their efforts.