It’s well known that smoking is dangerous and has a detrimental effect on health, yet cigarettes were once heavily advertised and even recommended.
As electronic cigarettes look set to replace the tobacco variety, will we find that history repeats itself or will it emerge that the vaping devices have been unfairly stigmatised?
The height of smoking
It’s strange to think that smoking was once advertised as a positive pastime and health cure. During the 1900s, health professionals were commonly used as smoking advocates and espoused the benefits of smoking. Cigarettes were even recommended to cure sore throats.
Like their modern day electronic counterparts, cigarettes were also celebrity endorsed, including sports players such as baseball player Jackie Robinson, who endorsed Chesterfields in 1948.
Perhaps it was always inevitable that smoking would prove popular after such positive propaganda. Statistics from ASH show that 45% of the UK population were smoking in 1974, with 26% of men and 13% of women being regarded as heavy smokers (smoking around 20 cigarettes a day).
Today, figures show around one sixth of the population still smoke while 58% of adults have never smoked. This reduction could be seen as a result of the growing medical research proving the negative effects of smoking.
Research published in 1962 by The Royal College of Physicians brought smoking risks to public attention, leading to health warnings on cigarette packets in 1971. Finally, in 2002, all smoking ads were banned under the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act.
Smoking advertisements have been replaced by anti-smoking campaigns, which often use graphic visual imagery of tumours and lung cancer. The aim is to utilise the shock factor, stunning audiences into action; the Cancer Researchis a prime example of this technique.
A new way to smoke
Vaping fans have seen encouraging signs about e-cigarettes: last year it was found that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking, and statistics from e-cigarette retailers TABlites have revealed there are currently 2.6 million adults in Britain using electronic cigarettes, of which 1.1 million are ex-smokers.
E-cigarettes not only offer a less harmful alternative to smoking, they have also developed into an experience. Users can now immerse themselves in a range of flavours, from tobacco to fruit flavours.
Now advertised on television after the watershed and with celebrity endorsement from famous figures like Vinnie Jones (who has recently become the UK’s first celebrity to advertise e-cigarettes), vaping seems to be mimicking ill-fated smoking adverts.
E-cigarettes have had a mixed reaction, as they have been repeatedly criticised for promoting smoking as “cool” and “desirable”.
In fact, some e-cigarette adverts have already been banned because it is seen as re-normalising smoking and tobacco; VIP cigarettes received 199 complaints for their advert which showed a woman vaping.
Are E-cigarettes heading the same way as traditional smoking?
The choice to vape for 61% of e-cigarette users is to help them quit smoking. By using an e-cigarette, ex-smokers can distract what they call “fidgety hands”. According to testimonials of ex-smokers, dealing with this can be a big struggle when giving up because of the association of smoking and comfort.
In fact, the reported correlation between e-cigarettes and quitting has spurred the NHS to recently debate whether e-cigarettes should be prescribed to smokers to help them stop. It appears e-cigarettes are here to stay and aiming to right the wrong caused by their predecessor.