Jerry Brown's minions puffing fresh smoke rings on vaping
If I hadn't done a story on vaping and what the heck it is last summer, I would never have noticed how dishonest a new ad campaign coming out of Gov. Jerry Brown's California Department of Public Health is. The ad I saw seeks to discourage teenage mall-goers out in places like Sherman Oaks, California (home of the famous Valley Girl) from vaping. It seems to be part of this year's crop of anti-vaping ads, coming out of a $75-million five-year anti-vaping state ad program fully supported by anti-smoking fanatic Brown. Rather un-transparently, the state agency attempts to make its message appear to be the work of an activist group called "StillBlowingSmoke.org" rather than a green-walled state bureaucracy.
Here is a photo of what I saw at the Westfield Fashion Square mall in Sherman Oaks on Friday:
Designed to appeal to rap and pop culture-obsessed white teenagers, the ad features a hip African-American face (which looks a lot like Jimmy Hendrix) clouded in a haze of vape smoke and looking soulful. It ominously captions that image with "E-Cigs: Big Tobacco's New Best Friend," with the sub-header: "There's a lot the e-cig industry isn't telling us about vaping." And in faded letters at the bottom, the ad features a copyright bug with California Department of Public Health, grudgingly admitting sponsorship.
Here's what's obnoxious about the ad, based on my research here:
Number one, that vaping is being depicted as evil. This is 100% rubbish. The British surgeon general's office equivalent has found that vaping is an effective means of helping smokers quit smoking by allowing them to gradually reduce their nicotine intake so they can quit without trauma. That's what we call harm reduction. Vaping lacks the awful carcinogens of burning tobacco leaves and industrial chemicals, something like 7,000 of them, and allows vaping enthusiasts to use a small amount of nicotine, along with the happy sensation of blowing fragrant steam from their devices instead of the filthy foul-smelling smoke of cigarettes. It's not 100% harmless due to the small amount of nicotine, but it's probably about 95% harmless and a heck of a lot better than tobacco smoking. The bottom line is that it helps smokers quit.
The ad focuses on depicting Big Tobacco as the evil force behind vaping, a huge horrible conspiracy being "kept from us." This is even more colossal rubbish. Vaping is a kitchen-table industry where thousands of small merchants manufacture little pipes, nicotine compounds, flavors for smoke, and other small elements that go into the creation of a vaping experience. It's not the one-size-fits all package of Big Tobacco's answer to vaping, which is e-cigarettes, commonly available in convenience stores. Nothing wrong with them, but they are not the biggest part of the vaping industry now being targeted by the state agency.
Here's the worst element of the ad: it depicts Big Tobacco as being behind vaping itself. This is humongous rubbish. Big Tobacco got into the vaping industry slowly and haltingly as a result of market forces. Young people were gravitating toward vaping, and the tobacco companies wanted a piece of that action. It wasn't something they thought up by themselves; they just didn't want to be left out in the cold as their sales fell.
Now the phony story is being spread that Big Tobacco is the problem in this. It's not. It's a bit player at most. The problem is Jerry Brown's state agency that can't stop spreading distortions and lies about this industry. I speak as someone who has never vaped and never smoked a cigarette in my life. I just investigated the matter. Can we have a few facts here from our state overlords?