Friday, December 30, 2011

Do electronic cigarettes count toward New Year’s resolutions?

It’s time for those annual New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, exercising more and quitting smoking.
There’s no shortage of stories online, on television and in the papers about the best or most convenient ways to quit smoking in the days surrounding the arrival of 2012. So far, it seems that electronic cigarettes are almost intentionally left out of most of these New Year’s resolution stories. However, that might change next year or at least in the near future.
While it would seem to make sense to include electronic cigarettes in the quit smoking stories, most of the health care professionals and organizations asked to comment are hesitant to offer the option.
The biggest obstacle to electronic cigarette acceptance from the hard core anti-smoking crowd is now the presence of nicotine since they can’t complain about the smell or odor. Even though nicotine levels can be varied and changed by preference in many brands.
It’s not too hard to understand the hesitancy when it comes to certain groups advocating electronic cigarettes as an option to quit smoking, most likely due to the act of mimicking cigarette smoking, instead of an unseen patch, chewing gum or other medication.
In an earlier blog post regarding the Great American Smoke Out, E Cig Werks noted that the American Cancer Society (ACS) online Guide to Quitting Smoking included electronic cigarettes as a viable option.
While the ACS does not recommend electronic cigarettes, they at least put them in the list of available options to reduce tobacco use. The ACS hotline is 1-800-227-2345 and the Quit for Life hotline is 1-866-784-8454.
One only has to note the anecdotal social media posts and comments to see that a good number of cigarette smokers have moved to electronic cigarettes and are enjoying the benefits like less tobacco, odor, nicotine and cost savings. While nicotine levels are certainly a health issue to consider, most reports suggest that electronic cigarettes have significantly fewer toxins than tobacco cigarettes.
Since electronic cigarettes are relatively new option at this point, it remains to be seen whether moving to electronic cigarettes will take smokers to the next step of quitting altogether. However, if less tobacco is really the goal, then electronic cigarettes should be a realistic option.
Two prominent national columns recently criticized the anti-smoking movement for opposing the use of electronic cigarettes to decrease tobacco use without any real evidence. John Stossel of FoxNews and John Tierney of the New York Times noted that the potential for significant reduction and outright quitting of smoking with electronic cigarettes merits stronger consideration instead of lockstep opposition.
So, will 2012 be the year that electronic cigarettes actually become a viable alternative to tobacco cigarettes, or possibly an accepted legitimate step toward quitting smoking? Or, will they continued to be opposed and/or ignored by those looking to reduce cigarette smoking and tobacco use?
Considering that the Centers for Disease Control and other sources have reported that electronic cigarettes use is quickly growing into the millions as they become increasingly accepted in the marketplace, it seems more likely that they will become part of New Year’s resolutions for years to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If electronic cigs and vaping can make it here, they can make it anywhere

Bedford Slims is growing their electronic cigarette brand from one of the world’s great cultural centers, but also from a city that has been a leader in the worldwide anti-smoking movement.
The Big Apple-based Bedford Slims proudly proclaims to be “Brooklyn’s Vapourette Co.” on its website, while the design, style and impact of their products clearly reflect a New York state of mind.
Starting with style, Bedford Slims calls its electronic cigarettes “vapourettes.” Certainly that’s a matter of semantics, but in a growing and sometimes cluttered electronic cigarette industry, brands and manufacturers are looking for ways to set themselves apart. The name “Bedford Slims” is unique and has an interesting story, but more on that later.
It’s one thing for an electronic cigarette to look cool, which Bedford Slims achieves with a plaid designer battery with their mustachioed logo and green LED tip, as well as attractive packaging, website and other branding. However, style only goes so far in the competitive electronic cigarette market.
Bedford Slims puts the vapor in their vapourettes with a full bodied and flavorful drag, including the Menthol and Dark Roast that I enjoyed. As much as the flavors, Bedford Slims offers a solid and dependable battery and cartomizer. After too many puffs to count, I have yet to charge the battery and have not missed a puff, which happens with some brands.
The battery and cart from Bedford Slims are also on the larger and longer side, which really comes down to personal preference. While I know that some folks prefer a lighter and smaller e-cig, I like the more solid feel of the Bedford Slims and a larger size is less likely to misplace.
In less than a year, Bedford Slims has grown from a start-up to a presence at more than 130 outlets in New York City. Founder Jesse Gaddis believes strongly in his products and brand, as well as the overall industry. “Electronic cigarettes are the single most important invention of the early 21st century,” Gaddis said. “I firmly believe that our products and future lines of flavors and vapourette models could convert more traditional smokers than any brand currently on the market.”
Owners at some of the Brooklyn retail outlets seems pleased with Bedford Slims. One owner at the Grand Gourmet Deli has actually used Bedford Slims to quit tobacco cigarettes himself and another at Jack’s Fugettaboutit believes the flavors are the key to attracting customers.
As for the Bedford Slims brand, Gaddis began with a name combining a street that runs through the heart of Brooklyn that could also represent America’s heartland ala Capra’s Bedford Falls, and a descriptor that simply reflects the minimal nature of the vapourettes. “I thought about things that were relative to the golden era of cigarette smoking,” Gaddis said. “I visited that verbiage and tapped into the feeling of that time when no one was bothered when they enjoyed a smoke.”
Gaddis and the management team at Bedford Slims bring a diverse background to the table, including his experience in retail, advertising and design. Others team members with a combination of experience in chemistry, finance and design include creative officer Lisa Yen, financial officer Andrew Wang and strategy officer Nick Radice. Gaddis said Bedford Slims is also looking to support charitable causes specializing in smoking-related illnesses.
It’s apparent that businesses and brands like Bedford Slims are staking a big investment on the future of the fledgling electronic cigarettes industry and vaping market. However, the business is not without a strategic plan, according to Gaddis. “We practice market-based management,” he said. “So, as long as we are adding value to the industry, we see every reason to keep pushing the envelope.”
So, as Bedford Slims electronic cigarettes seems to be staying pretty true to their New York roots, it might not be long before they are competing with bigger national brands.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Indianapolis could be electronic cigarette marketing perfect storm for Super Bowl

Sometimes, things happen for a reason and sometimes they just happen. In looking forward to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis on February 5, there might be a golden opportunity for some electronic cigarette brands to make their  marketing bones.
Over the last five decades, the Super Bowl has grown into a massive marketing monster in America and worldwide. From the celebrated television ads to the exclusive parties and more, the Super Bowl has become an annual mission for a broad spectrum of companies and brands to reach billions of precious eyeballs.
While Super Bowl marketing and especially advertising efforts usually come at a huge premium, there might be a unique situation for electronic cigarettes in the coming weeks, especially since the game is being held in Indianapolis.
The state of Indiana and the Indianapolis City-County Council have been debating various forms of public cigarette smoking bans for months. While Indianapolis already has a smoke-free ordinance for restaurants, anti-smoking groups are looking to broaden the ban to include bars, hotel rooms and other hospitality-related businesses. As for the state, Indiana has so far left smoking regulations up to local governments like Indianapolis.
In recent days, Indiana officials, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, are specifically using the upcoming Super Bowl as leverage to push for a statewide smoking ban. Daniels and others believe that they can push through the smoking ban before the legislative session ends in early January just in time for the Super Bowl tourism rush.
Since no one knows exactly how the political football game will turn out, it seems like electronic cigarette brands could use the heightened awareness of public smoking issues in Indiana and around the Super Bowl to market their products.
Promoting electronic cigarettes in terms of traditional smoking bans can cut different ways. While some anti-smoking advocates are trying to include electronic cigarettes in the same realm as tobacco cigarettes, many people are starting to appreciate the benefits of electronic cigarettes, especially from the social and workplace perspectives.
Having talked to a number of people, including a Wisconsin legislator who strongly supported the state smoking ban in restaurants and bars, many of them are much less offended by electronic cigarettes than traditional tobacco. Usually the biggest question raised is whether there are any dangerous chemicals in the e-cigs, but it’s clear that the odor of tobacco cigarettes is what generates the most opposition.
Getting back to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, you would expect that some electronic cigarette brands may already be planning marketing activities there, especially in light of increased sports exposure during this past NASCAR racing season. We’ve come a long way since the days when athletes endorsed tobacco and cigarettes, but electronic cigarettes are a different animal with almost no tobacco, no odor and varying amounts of nicotine.
Electronic cigarette brands will each need to decide on the cost-benefit analysis of advertising, marketing or having any presence for the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. While some might be ready to capitalize on the already increased profile of the smoking ban issue in Indiana, others might be content with the status quo of keeping a lower profile. However, many brands may use online and social media outlets to connect with the Super Bowl and other sports.
Either way, it should be interesting to see if Super Bowl XLVI in a smoking ban war zone like Indianapolis is the start of something bigger when it comes to electronic cigarette marketing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking stock of electronic cigarettes and big tobacco story

Sorry for the hyperbole here, but as a close follower of the electronic cigarette industry for the past year or so, this could mark the dropping of a “bomb” of sorts.

Yes, using the Pearl Harbor analogy on the somber 70th anniversary of that tragic event is way over the top, but after pausing to remember the sacrifice of those who serve, today is simply the first time that I’ve seen significant and credible public commentary on any connection between electronic cigarettes and the big worldwide tobacco companies.

Paulo Santos’ article “E-Cigarettes: An Emergent Threat to Big Tobacco” was posted online today on the Seeking Alpha financial site. Santos is an independent trader and analyst, while Seeking Alpha is a stock market opinion and analysis site with more than 2.2 million unique visitors per month.

After analyzing the current state of the major tobacco company stocks, Santos describes electronic cigarettes as a “threat” faced by those companies along the lines of lawsuits and decreased consumption.

By then citing the most common potential benefits of electronic cigarettes like health considerations, cost savings, current state of regulation and growing popularity, Santos concludes that electronic cigarette growth will likely impact the real cigarette market by saying “I believe that this is a threat that should be considered, particularly in light of the not-so-low tobacco sector valuations.”

For the past year, I have been surprised by the lack of media coverage on the issue of electronic cigarettes and the big tobacco companies. As a number of smaller companies grow and compete in the online and retail marketplace, it seems like the big companies are keeping a low profile on electronic cigarettes and focusing on their current products. To me, that seems like an interesting story that hadn’t really been publicly addressed until today in Santos’ column.

Of course, there are still many unknowns in the electronic cigarette marketplace like government regulation of their use, production and even advertising and promotion. Public acceptance of electronic cigarettes is growing, but still minimal compared to tobacco.

However, at a time when it seems like hundreds of new electronic cigarette, vaping and smoke juice brands are competing for market share, it wouldn’t be too hard for the big companies to get involved.

We also know that “big tobacco” is one of the most demonized global industries and hasn’t been a bang up job in the area of public relations. It seems that the electronic cigarette industry has learned some important history lessons and is doing its best on the PR and regulation front.

In addition, bigger companies can be slower to move on new technology and it might only be a matter of time before they embrace electronic cigarettes and start swallowing up the smaller companies that are currently pioneering this industry.

In fact, an executive of one of the more well known electronic cigarettes brands was one of the first to comment on Santos’ column. “It’s good to see this topic being discussed, said Blu Cigs president Jason Healy. “I am obviously betting on the fact that we have and will continue to make an impression on big tobacco.”

Blu’s Healy then asks what the tobacco companies think of electronic cigarettes, which others like Santos and E Cig Werks are doing as well.

While Pearl Harbor Day is a day for remembering a historic event, those who lost their lives there and those who fought for freedom years afterward, only time will tell if electronic cigarettes win the fight to replace tobacco.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comedian John Branyan on the future of electronic cigarettes?

This two-minute YouTube clip from comedian John Branyan does a humorous and insightful job of nailing the possible future of electronic cigarettes. Could there be a time when people get back to smoking in regular family, business and social situations, but only with electronic cigarettes instead of the real ones?

As hard as that may be to imagine in today's anti-tobacco society, it's something to think about when it comes to the increasing popularity of electronic cigarette products and brands. Branyan's comments and smoking an e-cig here could prove to be funny and visionary, but also be another small step toward their acceptance as a legitimate product in our culture.

Branyan describes the electronic cigarette as his "new favorite toy" and smokes it on stage. He then goes on to mock the possibility of electronic cigarettes being used in some unusual, yet really commonplace and harmless situations. It appears that this clip recieved about 4,000 views in the first couple days with a 90% approval rating. Branyan's comedy is more clean and family-focused than most and he performs at many churches and schools in the Midwest and around the country.

Do you think Branyan is seeing the future of electronic cigarettes in this clip, just trying to be funny, or both?