Tobacco Companies Gearing Up To Re-Enter Advertising World

File this under “Some Things Never Change”: For years, everyone has been aware that long ago, (in 1971 to be exact,) the U.S. government banned cigarette manufacturers from advertising on TV. Much later, as part of a Master Settlement Agreement for tobacco liability in 1998, and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009, additional bans against cigarette advertising were enacted, as follows:

• No cigarette advertising in media with substantial youth audiences.
• No use of cartoons in packaging, promotion, ads, or labeling.
• No tobacco company sponsorship of team sports.
• Almost all outdoor advertising outlawed.
• No ads on public transit such as buses and subway cars.
• No paid product placement allowed (such as actors smoking.)
• No free samples of cigarettes
Because of all these restrictions against tobacco and cigarette advertising, the tobacco industry has searched for years for a way back to their glory days of hooking people on their cigarettes and raking in billion-dollar profits. Nothing looked promising. It looked like cancer victims, consumer activists and the federal government had finally beaten the tobacco companies.

Until now. You see, a large and hungry creature like the tobacco industry doesn’t die easy (neither do lung cancer victims, but that’s a story they don’t want to talk about.) No, it looks like the cigarette industry is about to leap back onto the airwaves, into print advertising in newspapers and magazines, and even radio. How, you ask?

E-cigarettes. If you haven’t heard of them, these products supposedly deliver nicotine – which is what traditional smokers crave due to addiction – without the cancer-causing smoke and tar. R>J> Reynolds, the Number 2 tobacco company in the U.S., recently held its first press conference in almost twenty years to launch its new “digital vapor cigarette,” called “Vuse.” The company is scheduled to debut its advertising for the product next month in Colorado – a test market for an eventual national roll-out. Altria, which owns Philip Morris USA, the Number 1 tobacco company in the U.S., recently announced plans for its own e-cigarette, and Lorillard, the Number 3 U.S. tobacco company, plans to spend $40 million this year to promote its own e-cigarette brand, “Blu.” Care to know just how big the new market for e-cigarettes could be? It was $500 million in 2012, and is projected to reach a $1 billion market by the end of 2013. Says one Citibank analyst, “It’s an exciting time to be in U.S. tobacco.”

As a Boston, Massachusetts lung cancer lawyer who has seen too many people suffer and die from the lung cancer cigarettes cause, I find this entire scheme offensive, if not Kafka-esque: For decades, the tobacco industry denied that their cigarettes caused cancer. Now they’re about to start hawking products that, unbelievably, are marketed solely on the premise that they don’t harm you the way tobacco cigarettes do.

How’s that for irony and hypocrisy? Too bad Congress can’t pass a law against that, also.