I remember being a teenager, as shocking as that might be to my children. I remember the need to fit in, the curiosity of things I had yet to experience, the fear that I might disappoint my friends, my family, myself. It’s an interesting time of rule following and rule breaking, self-discovery and self-loathing.
I remember meeting friends behind the white church after school, only to see that someone had brought cigarettes, stolen from their mother’s purse. I was in grade 8. The youngest of 4, ALL my siblings smoked, so I knew I wasn’t interested, but how would my friends react if I said no? When the white tube landed in my hands, and I felt that crunch of tobacco beneath the paper, I entertained the thought of putting it to my lips, but the smell of dirty ashtray turned my stomach, so I declined. Turns out, my friends liked me for who I was, not whether I puffed on cigarettes or not.
In high school, I hung out in the smoking pit on breaks. Still a non-smoker, that’s where all my friends were. They never pressured me to smoke. I was lucky.
It always seemed to me that the guys got more pressure than I did, like inhaling smoke into their lungs was a testament to their machismo. (Yes, I just used the word machismo. Not sure why my kids can’t see how cool I once was)
I grew up in the era that brought us pictures of rotting gums, and tar-filled lungs on cigarette packs. While they did little to deter my friends, who were thrilled if they got the pregnancy warning because it meant it didn’t apply to them, I think it did have an affect on the generation to follow us.
It was not too long before my generation, people were blissfully unaware of what they were doing to their bodies, encouraged even, with ads stating that doctors recommended smoking cigarettes. The misinformation was amazing, and people happily filled their lungs with chemicals none the wiser.
More and more detail and research was revealed about the health implications that came with smoking, and more and more people started taking better care of their health. At least I believe that to be the truth, maybe it’s just one of those things that was never relevant to me before that time, and then became relevant so there appeared to be more info about it. Regardless, I do know there was a drop in cigarette sales as I got older.
Each of my siblings tried, with varying degrees of success, to quit smoking when my dad was diagnosed with Cancer. Something I consider to be another factor in the cigarette sales decline, is there anyone who hasn’t been affected by Cancer these days? I don’t think so.
At any rate, the big tobacco companies must have felt the pinch. For the first time, in a long time, they needed to market something new, and so the e-cigarette or vapour cigarette was born.
I know what you’re thinking, there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, and you’re right. There is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, but there is liquid nicotine. Liquid nicotine is made from tobacco, and it’s highly addictive, and dangerous (less than one tablespoon is enough to kill an adult.) The liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes is also unregulated! Some have as much as a regular cigarette.
You’re probably also thinking, e-cigarettes are supposed to help you quite smoking cigarettes, or so the ads would have you believe. Do you know where the liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes comes from? Big tobacco companies, I’m not sure it would be in their best interest if everyone quit smoking.
And those fruity flavours? You can’t tell me they aren’t to attract a younger clientele. There is absolutely no reason to make a bubble gum flavoured e-cigarette, unless you are targeting my teenager.
There is no helping people quit smoking going on here, there is trying to recruit newer, younger consumers. There is convincing them e-cigarettes aren’t as bad for you as regular cigarettes, there is unregulated, unsafe and unreliable products marketed to an already impressionable audience.
Now, on the other side of the coin, watching my children go out the door to meet their friends at, what might be their equivalent, of the white church. I wonder how I can expect them to make good choices when they are being fed lies about what is in e-cigarettes and how they affect your health. The only thing I can do is talk to them, which I have done, but I wonder when the government will make it mandatory for them to display pictures of rotting teeth, and unhealthy lungs on these packages?
I’m sure that my parents spoke to me about regular cigarettes too, but I can’t guarantee you I would have said no, if they were disguised as bubble gum flavoured e-cigarettes that are supposed to help you quit smoking. Well played, Tobacco companies, well played.