04 Aug Girl Scouts, Tootsie Roll Take On E-Cigarette Industry
The controversy surrounding e-cigarettes continues to grow as candy and food brands popular with children battle to keep their names off of the devices. Critics of e-cigarettes have many reasons for disliking this popular new product, including the fear that e-cigarettes could lead children to try tobacco. With flavors appealing to children, as well as brand names familiar to them, e-cigarettes makers could be in hot water in the debate over targeting kids.
E-Cigarettes and Kid-Friendly Flavors
The device called an e-cigarette was initially heralded as a great way for smokers to wean themselves from tobacco cigarettes. These electronic devices allow smokers to inhale a nicotine vapor and exhale only water. They eliminate the thousands of harmful compounds in traditional cigarette smoke, which are responsible for most of the negative health effects. However, they are still devices that deliver an extremely addictive drug: nicotine.
While e-cigarettes have the potential to help adults kick their dangerous habit, the devices do pose a threat to children. Critics, including democratic lawmakers, say that e-cigarette companies are clearly marketing their products with kids and teens in mind. Senator Dick Durban from Illinois is speaking up about the problem and states that all e-cigarette manufacturers use techniques to target kids. These include sponsoring rock concerts and auto races. They also include using fruit and candy flavors that appeal to kids.
Battle of the Kid-Friendly Brands
E-cigarette makers have gone beyond using generic, descriptive names for the flavors of their products and are now turning to brand names that are more recognizable and that conjure up a flavor more effectively. For instance, instead of calling a flavor chocolate mint, they use Thin Mint or Junior Mint. The well-known Girl Scout cookie and candy brand names are familiar to kids and appealing, too.
Companies whose brand names are being hijacked are fighting back to protect both their copyrights and children. General Mills, Tootsie Roll and the Girl Scouts have defended their brands by sending cease-and-desist letters to e-cigarette manufacturers.
The practice of co-opting brand names and imagery is not surprising for an emerging and rapidly growing market. The e-cigarette market has exploded in recent years with over 1,500 manufacturers in the U.S. and many more abroad. Sales in 2013 for e-cigarettes topped $2 billion. Even cigarette brands like Camel and Marlboro have seen their imagery stolen for use on e-cigarettes. As the industry evolves, experts believe that the companies making e-cigarettes will start to develop more ethical standards.
To push e-cigarette makers and sellers to evolve in that way, it is important that companies assert their copyrights. General Mills and others are leading the way in making sure that their brand names stay off of the devices that could prove to be risky for children. Politicians are fighting the battle as well. A bill in the U.S. Senate would allow the Federal Trade Commission to penalize manufacturers that use deceptive advertising or marketing practices that target children.
The development of the e-cigarette has been positive for many adults. Helping adults to quit smoking deadly tobacco cigarettes is a huge benefit of these devices. Unfortunately, there are downsides and children may get caught up in them. With the right people pushing for change, e-cigarettes will become more tightly controlled and will stay out of the hands of kids.
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