“The bottom line is smoking cool and you know it,” Chandler Bing (Friends 1994).
With a long of history of stigma with smoking equalling ‘being cool’ this type of association had led tobacco companies to frequently direct their advertising to youth with the message of ‘smoking is cool.’ Initiatives around the world have worked hard in order to oppose and overcome this type of advertising and social illusion.
The California Tobacco Control Program or the CTCP is a leading example of how targeting this specific tobacco trend can lead to a long-term reduction of tobacco use. The California Department of Public Health; the founder and funder of the CTCP, have estimated through their work for over 30 years now in overcoming social challenges with tobacco use in California, has reduced the number of tobacco users from 1 in 5 persons, to 1 in 8 (CTCP 2017). CTCP’s aim is it ‘denormalise’ social acceptance of tobacco use (CTCP 2017). With their deep understanding and experience with tobacco use and studying the emerging trends in society, the CTCP have recently directed their fight to e-cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are a handheld electronic device which mimics the experience of normal tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes come in a range of types such as with or without nicotine and also in a variety of flavours such as fruit or candy. In recent years, the ‘smoking is cool’ trend has directed its path to the act of smoking an e-cigarette called vaping, which has rapidly increased as a social trend, particularly within youth. This trend has led tobacco companies to directly advertise e-cigarettes to young people (American Academy of Paediatrics 2014). However, as CTCP explores, there is a social disillusion with the safety of e-cigarette, with users ignoring that e-cigarettes most frequently possess nicotine.
CTCP has launched a campaign ‘Still Blowing Smoke’ in order to fight the use of e-cigarettes and the blurred understanding of what an e-cigarette is. The aim of this campaign is to educate the youth in particular to the potential dangerous harms of e-cigarette use. The campaign encompasses online advertising, a website and TV commercials, and is also a high school program to educate the youth before they start. These platforms make explicit of the potential harms of e-cigarette use and the need to dissociate vaping with ‘being cool.’
‘Smoking is cool’ is a statement that the majority would argue now is not applicable. However, through exploring campaigns that counter oppose current trends with tobacco use, such as ‘Still Blowing Smoke’ by the CTCP, it is clear that the trend it still alive, but has just manifested into new markets within the tobacco industry.
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