Electronic Cigarette (e-cig) companies are increasingly targeting teenagers, who are often trailblazers of new trends and role models for younger adolescents. In courting young trendsetters, e-cig manufacturers predominantly utilize advertising imagery and slogans that appeal to the teens sense of freedom and rebellion.
An ad for Blu e-cigs features an angry, middle-aged woman, flipping her middle finger to smoking bans. The headline for the ad reads “Dear Smoking Ban” and the rest of the ad text says, “Take back your freedom to smoke anywhere with Blu electronic cigarettes.” Modern Vapor has an ad of a woman reclining with an e-hookah in her hand. The slogan of the ad says, Smoke in No Smoking Zones. A NicStick advertisement focuses on the no smoking sign of a coffee shop. The text above the image says, Beat the Smoking Bans. Smoke Anywhere with electronic cigarettes.
The e-cig industry is also keen to create a cool, hip image for its products through advertisements. Many ads are clearly targeted at hipsters who have a tendency to buck social norms and be anti-establishment. In an online ad for Njoy, rocker Courtney Love, wearing a silk dress, her makeup slightly smeared, is shown vaping at an opera house while a conservatively dressed older woman looks on with a horrified expression. When the older woman starts to protest, Courtney turns around and in an expletive-laced sentence tells the woman that she is not smoking but vaping an e-cigarette. The same brand also has an online video of a self-identified hipster with his red beard promoting the product.
Many other freedom based ads for e-cigs depict the freedom and pleasure of youth with images such as dancing and partying. The message that accompanies many of these ads is focused on the delight of rewriting the rules and breaking conventional norms. While e-cigarette manufacturers promise many freedoms to their consumers, the one freedom that they cannot promise is freedom from nicotine addiction.