Monday, November 28, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NASCAR electronic cigarette sponsorships starting to race

With the 2011 NASCAR season having raced to a dramatic finish Homestead Speedway in Miami, several electronic cigarette brands used this season to take the sports advertising and sponsorship wheel for the first time.

Two NASCAR drivers, T.J. Bell and Mike Bliss, were sponsored by Green Smoke and Blu Cigs, respectively, for various races including those in North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida.

Bell finished 45th in the NASCAR Spring Cup standings while competing in only five races and is a rookie of the year contender having also raced seven times in the Nationwide Series. Bliss finished 12th in the Nationwide Series and 58th in the Sprint Cup.

Both Green Smoke and Blu promoted their sponsorships at the races on the cars and with the drivers, and also with press releases, Facebook and Twitter postings, and more. Bionic Cigs also promoted a sponsorship at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis.

The electronic cigarettes currently growing in popularity simulate the traditional act of smoking by creating a nicotine and/or flavored vapor heated by a battery-operated device, which produces the vapor only when it is inhaled. The electronic cigarette vapor creates little or no odor and disappears almost immediately after it is exhaled.

Considering that NASCAR itself had Winston cigarettes as a title sponsor until 2003, electronic cigarettes seem like a natural fit in 2011 and beyond.
As a product, electronic cigarettes are relatively new, having really gained attention and traction in the last couple years. While some electronic cigarettes are sold in stores at the retail level, they seem to have a much higher online sales presence. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that electronic cigarette use has grown into the millions and online traffic on forums, review sites, Facebook and Twitter is also growing quickly.

Since NASCAR and other sports are increasingly popular online, especially via fantasy leagues and other games, there is a logical connection for electronic cigarettes, many of which are sold on the Internet. On the other hand, sports sponsorships can appeal to children and have been pushed away from tobacco-related sponsorships due to pressure from government, health agencies and anti-tobacco organizations. The difference with electronic cigarettes is that they contain no tobacco. In addition, most electronic cigarette brands are not trying to market to those under the age of 21.

Sports sponsorships like NASCAR help sell products and also increase the relevance and recognition of brands like Green Smoke, Blu or Bionic electronic cigarettes. There are a handful of electronic cigarettes now advertised on television, radio or newspapers, but usually not surrounding sports. Some of the reluctance for electronic cigarette sports and television advertising likely relates to the experience of the tobacco companies.

It will be interesting to see if electronic cigarettes continue to grow in NASCAR or other forms of racing. Possible logical marketing extensions along these lines include outdoor sports and activities like hunting, fishing, golf, skiing or horse racing.

While you can technically smoke electronic cigarettes at outdoor stadium events, especially in the concourses, it is hard to imagine sports fans vaping in their seats like they commonly smoked tobacco cigarettes back in the day. Even star athletes promoted cigarettes until the 1960s, so it will also be worth watching to see if athletes and celebrities start actively promoting electronic cigarettes.

With the number of electronic brands growing quickly and competing for customers and exposure in the marketplace, we can expect to see, hear and read about more of them promoting through sports sponsorship and even advertising.

Please feel free to comment on electronic cigarettes and sports sponsorships.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Electronic cigarettes can help us Smoke Out

Most of us are familiar with the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout program, which encourages smokers to try and quit for a day, start an effort to quit smoking overall or do both.

The Great American Smokeout has encouraged tobacco smokers to quit their habit for 36 years and the 2011 event occurs on November 17. However, quitting smoking has evolved a long way since 1975 and there are many more options now than just cutting down or quitting cold turkey.

One of the more interesting and innovative options to quit smoking and/or cut down in recent years are electronic cigarettes. The more common smoking cessation methods include professional counseling, programs and support groups, but there are also nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gum, nasal sprays, inhalers and lozenges. Other steps include a variety of prescription drugs, supplements or hypnosis and acupuncture.

Electronic cigarettes are designed to look like real cigarettes, but produce only a nicotine vapor instead of tobacco smoke. Using a rechargeable battery and cartridge system, electronic cigarettes are ignited when inhaled to produce the sensation of smoking a real cigarette without the impact of tobacco, paper or odor. Electronic cigarettes can be used almost anywhere and can also be more cost effective than regular cigarettes.

The increasing popularity and acceptance of electronic cigarettes not only present a high tech option for smokers, but some interesting philosophical questions for anti-smoking groups and organizations like the American Cancer Society. 

A New York magazine story noted that the number of posts on the Electronic Cigarette Forum are more than four million for 2011 compared to some 30,000 three years ago in 2008. Anecdotal review of other electronic cigarette online forums, websites and social media activity also shows increasing popularity. The Centers for Disease Control also reports that electronic cigarettes use is growing quickly and millions are now trying them.

Even the American Cancer Society website refers to electronic cigarettes in their Guide to Quitting Smoking. After some basic discussion, the site presents the potential downsides of electronic cigarettes such as lack of study and information on ingredients, and potential harm to children.

The resources on the American Cancer Society site also include a referral to their hotline at 1-800-227-2345 and questions related to quitting tobacco i.e. electronic cigarettes are then referred to the Quit for Life hotline at 1-866-784-8454. The Quit for Life hotline would not recommend electronic cigarettes since they are not yet tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

With electronic cigarettes at least an option for tobacco smokers, the Great American Smokeout takes on new meaning and raises questions on how society and culture reacts to e-cigs.

For example, how do smoking bans enacted in businesses, airplanes and even outside places like parks apply to electronic cigarettes? Some governments, regulators and businesses are attempting to deal with electronic cigarettes, but most proposals are still mostly just proposals or being debated.

A recent New York Times column by John Tierney cited studies claiming potential for significant reduction and outright quitting of smoking with the use of electronic cigarettes. Tierney’s column goes on to thoughtfully analyze the opposition to electronic cigarettes by the FDA, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and others, but he concludes that “no one knows exactly what long-term benefits they’d gain from e-cigarettes, but we can say one thing with confidence: Every time they light up a tobacco cigarette, they’d be better off vaping.”

John Stossel then cited Tierney’s column on his Fox Business News blog focusing on the FDA’s opposition to electronic cigarettes. Despite increasing evidence that electronic cigarettes can actually help smokers and actually save lives, Stossel concludes that the FDA making actually be “killing” smokers.

As the laudable Great American Smoke celebrates another year of encouraging smokers to kick the habit, both these high profile commentators, studies and others are bringing further credibility to option of electronic cigarettes as a way to decrease tobacco smoking and potentially save lives.

Let E Cig Werks know if you think electronic cigarettes are a viable option to help tobacco smokers quit.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Are celebrities, movies and TV ready to plug in electronic cigarette use?

Like a struggling actor, musician or artist, it seems that electronic cigarettes are still waiting for their big break when it comes to being accepted as a conventional alternative to smoking.

With the emergence of electronic cigarettes as a new product in the consumer marketplace over the last few years, several celebrities are beginning to endorse them. At the same time, a myriad of electronic cigarettes brands and industry supporters are disseminating information and details designed to help sell their products.

In the most recent high profile example of celebrity electronic cigarette endorsement, actress Carrie Fisher appeared casually smoked one during an NBC Today Show interview with Anne Curry, who briefly asked about it and moved on. “It’s electronic,” Fisher said. “It’s an e-cigarette.”

Actress Katherine Heigl did the same during an interview on the CBS Late Show with David Letterman about a year ago. After Letterman asked about her smoking habit, Heigl replied “now I do the electric cigarette. It’s water vapor and it’s essentially humidifying the space and it feels like you’re smoking.”  Letterman joked that Heigl’s e-cig looked like a dog whistle, but then tried it. “This is remarkable,” Letterman said. “This ought to get it done.”

Actor/producers Mel Gibson and Jeremy Piven were recently cited as enjoying e-cigarettes in a South Beach Smoke press release. Among other celebs spotted with e-cigs recently include Leonardo DiCaprio, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Britney Spears, Eric Roberts and yes, Charlie Sheen.

Some electronic cigarette brands like Green Smoke, Blu and others are marketing their products to celebrities and using them with more casual endorsements and contests on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Probably the highest profile electronic cigarette appearance in the movies came in The Tourist in 2010 when Johnny Depp enjoyed and extolled the virtues of an e-cig in a scene on a train. “Do you mind me smoking?” Depp asked co-star Angelina Jolie. “It’s not a real cigarette. It’s electronic. It delivers the same amount of nicotine, but the smoke is water vapor.”

Another motion picture connection to electronic cigarettes involves John Cameron, brother of director James Cameron, who is CEO of Safe Cig and recently helped make a strong case for electronic cigarettes in an interview with Fox News.

What is often the key issue with celebrity endorsements is when do they make the product look or appear to be perceived as being “cool” enough to gain acceptance by the general public. In addition, the definition of a product being “cool” or culturally accepted is not often very clear, but more of an evolutionary happening.

Whether 1980s movies like Tron or War Games or films from the 1990s like The Net, You’ve Got Mail, Hackers or The Matrix had anything to do with the massive technology revolution is debatable since computers and cell phone pretty much emerged on their own merits.

However, more gimmicky products like Reese’s Pieces and Ray-Ban sunglasses certainly benefited from their appearances in the films E.T. and Risky Business in the 1980s.  

Getting back to electronic cigarettes, we know that regular cigarettes were considered “way” cool in the entertainment world until sometime in the 1980s when the real impact of the negative health effects of smoking became widely known and accepted.

For decades, cigarettes were prevalent in the entertainment world of movies and television. Believe it or not, network newscasters used to smoke on the air, top athletes and doctors endorsed cigarettes in commercials and magazine ads, and even children’s cartoon characters like the Flintstones shilled for cigarettes.

Since the birth of advertising, various celebrities have endorsed products and done testimonials for all kinds of products, but these endorsements now seem to mean more to product marketing than consumer information and research.

As electronic cigarette brands and the industry combine to cite the benefits of their products through studies and other facts, it still may take a few more credible celebrity endorsements or product placements before they really catch fire.

Let E Cig Werks know how you think celebrity endorsements might impact electronic cigarette use.