The recent Sally Satel op-ed in Forbes brings home an excellent point about the negative ecigarette ads that attempt to sound a ringing yes to the “are ecigarettes dangerous” question. While ecigarette safety is obviously important, these ads don’t really focus on that issue at all. What they do, to some success, is create doubt in the mind of the viewer, meaning smokers that are looking for an alternative to tobacco cigarettes are being mislead.
As Sally says, “news about inaccurate labeling, shoddy counterfeits and poorly made ecigarettes that emit toxins understandably makes some smokers nervous about relinquishing the devil they know.” While those are legitimate qualms about safety standards, what the CDC and others do to distract smokers isn’t.
If you haven’t read any of the writings from Sally Satel, you would be wise to review them. Her thorough understanding of the world of electronic cigarettes has made her a go-to figure for Forbes.com in addressing the are ecigarettes dangerous concerns.
In this latest article, Sally points out the eerily similar approach between Big Tobacco back in its heyday and the current campaign by the CDC. The specific connection is to an internal memo from the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company in 1968 that showed the audaciousness of Big Tobacco. Doubt is our product,” is how an executive from the company addressed his peers, continuing on to say, “[It] is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the public… of establishing a controversy.”
The barrage of negative ecigarette ads from the CDC is basically using a similar method with regard to ecigarette safety. If they can create doubt in the mind of the potential user, they won’t be as likely to reach for the battery-powered device. Unfortunately, that means a lot of smokers will continue doing what they do, without the opportunity to change their lifestyles completely.
CDC Anti-Vaping Ad Incredibly Misleading
Satel points to a specific ad within the “Tips from Former Smokers” series. It features an ex-smoker by the name of Kristi and quotes her saying, “I started using ecigarettes but kept smoking. Right up until my lung collapsed.”
But as Satel explains, “This is deeply misleading. While the CDC may love spending your money to promote their agenda their lies by omissions should leave you somewhat upset.
Kristy’s lung, it turns out, collapsed after she stopped using ecigarettes and resumed smoking.
There are no reported cases of ecigarette use resulting in collapsed lungs.” Yet negative ecigarette ads like that one can create doubt for smokers about ecigarette safety, essentially using the same strategy that Big Tobacco used to but in reverse.
The same goes for California’s Still Blowing Smoke campaign against electronic cigarettes. It makes some off the wall claims like saying ecigarettes are worse than traditional tobacco cigarettes because vapor contains more particles. That’s just a not a measure harm. “Particles per se are not a measure of harmfulness – asthma inhalers deliver particles to the lungs,” Satel writes. This kind of stuff goes on and on, but nobody looks into the reality behind it. It may not make a firm case against ecigarettes, but it can create enough doubt so as to make any smoker think twice about making the switch.
That’s not just a shame; it is also just plain wrong. It really isn’t that far away from what those old tobacco executives used to do to confuse the public. Sally Satel is one of the people trying to get the word out to help smokers, and this is another example of her being spot on. “Only 8 percent of all former smokers have converted to vaping. That percentage needs to grow. But agencies such as the CDC and state of California are doing their best to halt the progression, “ she writes.
This warped impression of vaping is doing so much harm to a community of millions, so many of which die every year from tobacco-related illnesses. The CDC and others running these types of fear campaigns should be ashamed at themselves. If only we had more Sallys out there, maybe we could drown out those opponents of ecigs that are selling doubt and fear. We’ll keep doing what we do and we know the ecigarette revolution will overcome it detractors, as it always has.