Tobacco companies are using marketing tactics for their e-cigarettes that are similar to the ones they have used for regular cigarettes, including sponsoring race cars, using cab-top and bus stop displays, and buying TV ad time to tell smokers to take back their freedom, the Associated Press reports.
“Right now it’s the wild, wild west,” Mitch Zeller, Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products, told the AP.
The second-largest tobacco company in the United States, R.J. Reynolds, is launching an e-cigarette called Vuse. The company plans print, TV and direct mail marketing. Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA, the country’s largest tobacco company, has its own e-cigarette brand. The nation’s third-largest tobacco firm, Lorillard, will spend $40 million on marketing its e-cigarette, Blu.
E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, so tobacco companies can market them through television ads. Traditional cigarette television ads have been banned since 1971. Tobacco companies have cut back on magazine ads since the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 established broad restrictions on cigarette marketing.
Some convenience stores and gas stations display e-cigarettes at the front counter, which is off-limits for regular cigarettes, the article notes.
The tobacco industry is awaiting the FDA’s decision on how it will regulate e-cigarettes. Some experts say any regulations would likely result in a court battle, which would delay the regulations from going into effect.
Public health groups are concerned the companies’ marketing tactics will lure young people to start using e-cigarettes. It is unclear how safe they are, the groups note.
Sales of e-cigarettes could reach $2 billion by the end of 2013, according to analysts. E-cigarette use could surpass that of regular cigarettes in the next decade, some analysts predict.