The Industry

Are Youth a Target?

The History:

Rise of the Vape

Since vapes came on the market back in the mid-2000s, their use has grown at an explosive rate. First marketed as a way to help people quit smoking cigarettes, their popularity among non-smokers including youth, quickly grew.  Many people (including parents and caregivers) hear the message that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but don’t recognize that vaping is not harm free. There was a 74% increase in vaping among youth aged 16-19 in Canada from 2017 to 2018 (jumping to 14.6% from 8.4%).(1) Cigarette smoking in the same period increased 45% to reach 15.5% of youth in this age group from 10.7% a year earlier.(1)

This is a concerning discovery because surveys prior to 2018 had been showing a consistent decline in youth smoking. Is it just a coincidence that an increase in youth smoking has started to occur at the same time as youth vaping is increasing? Perhaps not.

Students are being very bold with their vape use, vaping inside schools and on school property that by law is designated No Smoking, No Vaping under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

The Evolution:

Is Big Tobacco Big Vape?

In Ontario the first anti-smoking legislation was introduced in 1994 and further restrictions were introduced in 2006 with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. This law helps prevent young people from starting to smoke, helps people who smoke quit, and protects everyone from the harms associated with secondhand smoke. In 2018 the smoking rates in Ontario were the lowest they had ever been, which was good news for everyone except the tobacco industry that makes and sells commercial tobacco products. With sales and profits dropping, the industry needed to re-invent itself and its products. So when e-cigarettes came on the market, big tobacco took notice.

E-cigarettes were a perfect product for the tobacco industry. In an age where everyone is drawn to technology, adding an electronic component to cigarettes seemed like a natural evolution. By eliminating the need to burn tobacco, vapes could be marketed as a “safer” alternative to smoking. E-liquid and cartridges/pods come in thousands of flavours making them very appealing to users of all ages, and being a new product on the market, they were not restricted by many of the laws that dictate cigarette use, sales and marketing. But best of all, e-cigarettes accomplished the one thing that the tobacco industry has spent decades perfecting – getting and keeping people addicted to nicotine.

Before long vape manufacturers such as Juul were selling portions of their companies to big tobacco and the industry was also coming out with its own brands such as Logic and Vype.

Warning Sign

buyer beware

With the well documented history of big tobacco lying about the addictiveness and health effects of its products, along with its questionable marketing tactics targeting youth and other vulnerable populations, this profit focused industry is up to its old tricks, using a new product.

Vapes Today:

Marketing Mayhem

When it comes to selling and marketing vape products, what’s old really is new again. Vapes and e-liquid are being marketed using the same old tried and true methods that big tobacco perfected before laws that restrict tobacco product advertising in Ontario were passed. For example, commercial tobacco products were once allowed to be displayed as large “power walls” in retail stores. Law now requires that these products are completely covered and out of sight. Vape products do not have similar restrictions and as a result tobacco power walls have been replaced with vape power walls.

Convenience Store vape display

At one time commercial tobacco products were allowed to be displayed at the checkout right beside the candy and gum. These strategically placed tobacco products at eye level for kids to see, helped to normalize smoking and give the impression that they were another harmless item for people to buy and use. It should not be surprising that vape products have now made their way into this coveted spot on many convenience store checkout counters.