Familiar Think Tanks Fight For E-cigarettes


Anti-science think tanks learned tactics from the tobacco industry and got paid for their help by tobacco companies, who fostered the Tea Party with the Koch brothers. When the Kochs needed better PR, they knew who to hire, Steve Lombardo, an experienced tobacco operative.

People rarely get strong nicotine addiction after their teen years,* but teen smoking has slowly been dropping in developed countries, threatening tobacco’s future customer base. So do advertising restrictions and smoking bans in many places.

What to do?

Answer: Use the classic formula — apply brilliant marketing while familiar think tanks provide pseudo-academic cover to public and policy makers. Clean coal anyone?

1. Embrace electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), nicotine delivery devices for “vaping,” too new for the long-term research that was needed to connect smoking and disease. 

Many medical researchers in fact think e-cigs are less bad than cigarettes for nicotine addicts.  However,  the limited early research shows e-cigs vary wildly, contain many chemicals the effects of which are still unknown, and the resulting vapor is more than water, despite the amazing certainty of marketeers and thinktankers otherwise. 

For  real science,  E-Cigarettes: The Vapor This Time? is a recent research symposium, with slides and videos online.  For more discussion, the public was welcome to attend the yearly Billion Lives symposium at UCSF on January 31 and talk to experts, but can now watch the videos now online., starting with the FDA‘s Mitch Zeller.  The effects of vaping for decades will not really be known for decades. That is science.

Marketing is different and has found a new frontier.  E-cigs are not generally subject to any laws on cigarette advertising and sales, opening a window to acquire new lifelong customers.  Think tanks are fighting hard to keep that window open, side-by side with their allies in Big Tobacco, who watched the efforts of small companies, but are now starting to enter the market in force.

Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising (SRITA) has created a  new website where you can explore the recycling of old cigarette ideas into new forms, via a gallery of old-vs-new images, sampled here, with notes at end.**

Marlboro Man, at least 4 dued of smoking-related diseases20,679 physicians smoke Luckies ... how many signed OISM?

Scientistss educators smoke Kent with Micronite Filters ... asbestosmotorcycles, then and now

People can sample many new video commercials, as in image at top here or watch Jenny McCarthy on blu e-cigs or Reynold’s Vuse, marketing at its “best.”

Most instructive is SRITA‘s large gallery of new e-cigarette flavors for teens. One can see a  sample of marketing creativity not obviously aimed to wean existing smokers off cigarettes.  Customers can often select the level of nicotine, as for gummy bear vaping.  These offer a much smoother path to nicotine addiction than the old candy cigarettes, but perhaps they are meant to wean the long-term 12-year-old smokers off cigarettes.  Some of us may be a bit old for the various bubblegum choices, but others look delicious!

cotton candy vapingchocolate indulgences

peermint candygummy bearpeanut butter twist

2. Use think tanks for cover. They fought hard for tobacco in the 1990s, and they are rapidly learning e-cig messages. Although e-cigs seem to be less bad than regular cigarettes, as always, think tanks emphasize avoidance/delay of regulation or taxation. 

The same groups that helped tobacco companies addict children in the 1990s are now concerned about resulting adults.  Primary messages include better health (likely even true for existing nicotine addicts), more freedom or less distaste by other people, especially attractive young adults.

Switching to e-cigs is supposed to help people get off nicotine addiction, a benefit yet to be proven by academic research, although marketeers seem sure. Others might wonder why companies would try to get customers to buy less of their product.  Perhaps they have now turned to public service?  Occasionally, lip service is paid to the concern that just possibly new people might take up vaping.

Adults should be able to do what they want if it causes no harm to others. Most adult smokers want to stop, but few can, so e-cigs are likely to be less bad.  Still, most societies try to protect children from causing themselves permanent damage and they have different rules, whose bypass by Big Tobacco has required brilliant tactics, such as Joe Camel. 

Would tobacco companies and free-market think tanks favor laws that let existing adult smokers buy e-cigs easily, if accompanied by serious penalities for selling or giving e-cigs to teens?  If not, why not?

Never change?  Dr. Stan Glantz collected a quick sample from familiar think tanks in Big tobacco’s rightwing pals (and fundees) aggressively supporting e-cigs; some things never change.***  Those are integrated here, with more links to articles.

Heartland Institute‘s tobacco past was covered here in 2012’s Fake science, whose list of tobacco fundees certainly included many, p.39, although only Heartland’s recent funding was known, p.62.

People might wonder whether or not tobacco still pays these 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charities.  Bold links show searches in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, as they have a long history of fighting tobacco control and minimizing health effects, plus a few links to recent articles, all found in an hour or two.

American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has long taken anti-tobacco stances, but has signed up for Big Tobacco funding, and its viewpoint seems to have changed, as seen below.
American Enterprise Institute: Smoking Kills, and So Might E-Cigarette Regulation,  written by Gilbert Ross, Executive Director of ACSH.
American Spectator Foundation: The Deadly Crusade Against E-Cigarettes, also written by Gilbert Ross, Executive Director of ACSH.
Americans for Tax Reform: ATR Opposes New Tax on E-Cigarettes in South Carolina; City of Duluth Considers Nonsensical Regulations on e-Cigarettes.
CATO Institute: E-Cigarettes, Cigars and the FDA’s New Powers.
Competitive Enterprise Institute: Possible FDA Ban on E-Cigarettes is Wrong MoveRegulating E-Cigarettes Creates the Wrong Incentives.
Heartland Institute: Research & Commentary: Electronic Cigarettes;
Research & Commentary: Age Restrictions for Electronic Cigarettes Chicago Bans Indoor Use of E-Cigarettes, Heartland Institute Responds.
Heritage Foundation: Smoking Kills (repost of Gilbert Ross)
Independent Women’s Forum: Lights Out on E-CigarettesSmoked Out: E-Cigarettes to Be Banned in the Big Apple.
Manhattan Institute: State tax officials cast greedy looks at electronic cigarettesThe FDA‘S Caution Is Hazardous To Our Health.
National Center for Policy Analysis: E-Cigarettes Reduce Harm from TobaccoSmoking Kills, and So Might E-Cigarette Regulations (Gilbert Ross again)
National Center for Public Policy Research: many articles, such as Why Public Health Advocates Hate E-cigarettesNational Center Senior Fellow to Testify Before Oklahoma Legislature-Sort of discusses  New York-based Jeff Stier’s attempted trip to testify at this Oklahoma legislature hearing, along with Lorillard, the Chairman of the Oklahoma Vapor Advocacy League, and others. Readers might think how that happens.  Perhaps legislatures would rather hear from think tank pundits than tobacco executives? Stier has written often, including Will Iowa Be Next To Ban Use of E-cigarettes in Public Places? Is he a medical researcher?  No, a lawyerFakery 2 often referenced NCPPR.
Reason Foundation: E-Cigarette Regulations Likely to Harm Anti-Smoking Efforts, Yet NYC Still Considers Ban.

In the UK, the GWPF is climate-focussed, but well-connected to other think tanks, including the UK‘s Institute for Economic Affairs,  searchable for  “tobacco”, “global warming” or “e-cigarette”.  Readers can try the same searches for Australia’s Institute for Public Affairs, although they seem not to have supported e-cigs so far. See A cigarette that could actually save lives.

National Review has a long history with tobacco, including this plea to Jesse Helms for help in getting cigarette advertising. Search for “National Review” followed by any of the 3 phrases. NR has recently been involved in a climate-related libel lawsuit.

Steve Forbes writes E-Cig Bans Should Go Up In Smoke in Forbes, often a platform for Heartland’s James Taylor, but also for articles such as NJOY: The E-Cigarette That Aims To Snuff Out Smoking.

Surgeon General 2014, Chapter 5, pp.139 -170 covers serious health consequences of nicotine.   Holman Jenkins, Jr writes Wall Street Journal   Op Eds on many topics including climate.  Continuing his long support of tobacco, he recently praised nicotine:

“Should e-cigarettes be warily embraced as a regrettable but safer alternative for people who insist on smoking anyway? Or should they be fulsomely welcomed as an invitation to relax our misplaced prohibitionist prejudice against nicotine, an excellent drug-improves concentration, assuages many unpleasant feelings-that now can be consumed in relative safety?

At long last the government would be able to resolve its split personality: It disapproves of smoking and yet every gesture somehow seems to end with government taking a bigger share of the profits of smoking. By embracing e-cigarettes and finally admitting that nicotine is a pretty good drug, the government could at least profit with a clearer conscience.”

After years of support for cigarettes, some suddenly seem to have found them to be unhealthy, and it is time to switch customers to e-cigs, especially as Big Tobacco moves in on the small pioneers.  The think tanks and allied media are rolling in support.


* People asked, so some pages from 2012 US Surgeon General Report were excerpted and annotated.  The attached spreadsheet yields the following graph, which summarizes the key strategy: get customers as young as possible, to raise the eventual % of committed adult smokers, currently about 23%.  Adding 1% is worth a $Billion or more in revenue.  For most people, strong nicotine addiction only works when it can “rewire” the rapidly-developing adoselscent brain, as per general article(2003) or  detailed one (2009).

$ Americans who try cigarettes and then smoke every day

** a) As per Golden Holocaust, Ch.21, free basing Marlboro heightened the tobacco “hit” and the Marlboro Men sold it well, but at least 4 of them died of smoking-related diseases.  b) 20,679 Physicians, less than Oregon Petition signers.  c) People smoked an estimated 15 Billion Kents filtered by Micronite, a marketing name for asbestos,  Golden Holocaust p.344.  Kent manufacturing employees suffered unusually high death rates.  d) Motorcycles get new riders.  What audience might this attract? Existing smokers or new ones?

*** DeSmogBlog readers may know the nature of discourse at pseudoskeptic climate blogs, which often verge on defamation of climate scientists.  In yet another parallel, readers might sample Dr. Michael Siegel’s blog post that starts with a misstatement of Stan’s comment, then follows with an ardent defense of CATO and Jacob Grier, who has written “Children, Say ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and “Please Do Smoke, If You Like.”  See a bit of CATO history with Big Tobacco.

UPDATE 02/02/2014: Link to Billion Lives 2014 video, add IEA, IPA and NR.

UPDATE 02/02/26/14: Add footnotes * and ***.

UPDATE 05/03/14: Legacy:  New Report on Electronic Cigarettes Underscores Critical Need for Advertising Restrictions to Limit Product’s Appeal to Youth

UPDATE 05/12/14: E-Cigarettes Expose People to More than ‘Harmless’ Water Vapor and Should be Regulated, UCSF Scientists Find Peer-reviewed research is starting to accumlate, and so far, contradicts some of the marketing claims.

UPDATE 07/08/14: fixed broken links to SG excerpt, spreadsheet.

UPDATE 07/19/14: added Holman Jenkins, links to adolescentbrain rewiring.

UPDATED 07/22/14: fixed broken link to “vapor this time”

UPDATE 08/08/14: added Manhattan Institute

UPDATE 08/26/14 original Jenny Mccarthy video gone, changed to another copy; if that is missing, search for jenny mccarthy blu youtube

UPDATE 03/13/15: IPA republishes Daily Telegraph praise of e-cigs

Image Credits: SRITA.

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