28th January 2014

Cigarette giants rejoice: nicotine is sexy again!

By Helen Gradwell on Tuesday January 28, 2014

So Eric Lawson, former Marlboro Man, has died aged 72. The papers can’t seem to agree, but it looks like he is the 3rd, 4th or 5th Marlboro Man to be killed by a smoking-related condition.

Poor Eric. He will forever be used as an example of an ironic death – like the Segway CEO who met an unfortunate Segway-related demise off a cliff.

No doubt this is terrible for Marlboro’s PR – not to mention Eric’s loved ones – but I doubt the cigarette giant is quaking in its boots too much (just one of the advantages of selling a product which happens to be powerfully addictive).

The media has taken this opportunity to look back over cigarette adverts of days gone by. You know, the good old days, when you could portray smoking as manly, sexy and All-American. Adverts which were basically just this:

Such adverts are now outdated and (in this country at least) downright unlawful.

But we have a new contender on the scene: e-cigarettes. I’ve seen a couple of adverts on the telly lately which are clearly taking advantage of the ambiguity surrounding ‘vaping’. It cannot yet be said whether e-cigs are good (they are unproven as a ‘stop smoking’ aid) or indeed whether they are bad for you.

This temporary regulation-free haven has yielded some very interesting adverts, which remind me of the cigarette adverts of yore. Let’s have a look, shall we?

VIP Electronic Cigarettes

Watch the advert here

If you haven’t seen this advert yet, it involves a strangely expressionless woman looking right into your soul and saying things like “I want you to get it out”, “I want you to put it in my mouth” and “I want to see how great it tastes”. It’s no better than the old smoking adverts (like the one below) we all laugh at today for being hilariously outdated and degrading to boot.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain why this is all a bit unnerving. Anyway, there have been lots of complaints to the Advertising Standards Agency, saying the VIP advert is overly sexualised and glamourises smoking.

The folks at VIP insist it’s just “tongue-in-cheek” which, considering the content of their advert, seems like a bit of an innuendo. But maybe that’s just me.

NJOY Electronic Cigarettes

Watch the advert here

This one’s a bit different. Instead of going for the sex angle, NJOY has gone for the whole camaraderie thing; ‘friends don’t let friends smoke’.

With our Charley’s favourite Avici song playing over the top (‘Heeeey, Brother’) these blokey blokes help each other through a whole manner of scrapes, including pushing a sofa up some stairs and averting a bar fight (resulting in an innocent bystander being violently defenestrated).

So friends don’t let friends smoke – but should they encourage them to smoke e-cigarettes instead? I suppose we’ll have to wait for the evidence, although for now I can say they at least smell better.

I’m sure the regulators are eventually going to come down on e-cig advertising in a pretty big way.

But until then, I say we all enjoy this blatant plugging of nicotine consumption, and the wacky and often flat-out insulting marketing it produces. Like this bewildering example: