Wicked Wizard E liquid E cigarette use among children and young people: the need for regulation
Electronic cigarettes challenge anti-smoking efforts
A new TV advert for a brand of electronic cigarettes marks the first time in decades cigarettes of any sort have been promoted on US television. Anti-smoking campaigners fear the rapid growth of tobacco-free cigarettes could undermine years of successful anti-smoking efforts.
A handsome actor poses and struts on a beach in a stylishly shot black-and-white television spot. He puts the cigarette to his lips, takes a puff, and exhales a rich flume.
"Blu lets me enjoy smoking without it affecting the people around me, because it's vapour not tobacco smoke," says Stephen Dorff, the scruffy heartthrob star of The Immortals.
"We're all adults here, it's time we take our freedom back."
The launch this autumn of the advert for blu e cigs marks a turning point in the fast-growing US market for electronic cigarettes, which use an electronic mechanism to warm a liquid nicotine solution and release mist into the lungs.
Most living Americans had never before seen a cigarette advertised on television - they were banned in 1971.
But the electronic cigarettes fall outside that law, since they contain no tobacco. That is just one way they fall into what one anti-smoking campaigner calls a regulatory "no man's land".
Media Blu is thought to be the first cigarette advertised on US television since 1971. Here is the ad - and a few of its predecessors.
Electronic cigarettes have exploded in popularity in the US since they first appeared on the market in 2007. Blu is just one brand, with NJOY, SmokeAnywhere, Joye eGo, and many more also available.
Their appeal stems from perceptions - as yet untested by science - that they are safer than tobacco cigarettes and can even help smokers kick the habit.
And because they contain no tobacco, the e cigarettes seem exempt, for now, from ever-stricter public smoking bans.
Since their emergence onto the US market, US sales have risen from $5m (£3.1m) to an estimated $250m, according to UBS estimates.
Amid the explosive growth, smoking opponents are eyeing the devices warily.
"We know that smoke-free laws encourage smokers to try to quit," says Danny McGoldrick, vice-president of research at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The taste is better than real cigarettes and you don't disturb people because it doesn't smell.
You can smoke inside in public places. I smoke in restaurants, I smoke in bars. I even ended up smoking in the subway.
I think it's healthier - it doesn't give you cancer. I smoked some [tobacco] cigarettes on one night three weeks ago, and I was disgusted by it, actually.
If electronic cigarettes keep people smoking who would otherwise quit, that is harmful, he says.
Once sold mostly online and in small kiosks, they were given a huge boost in April when US tobacco giant Lorillard Inc purchased blu from the brand's creators for $135m (£84m).
Lorillard executives said they foresaw rapid growth and were keen to put their weight behind the brand.
Since the acquisition blu has seen a five-fold increase in its retail availability, and will be available in some 50,000 shops by the end of this year. The national advertising campaign launched in October.
"They've come in and put in their tremendous resources and experience and they've put us on steroids and given us the resources to grow well," blu's creator and president Jason Healy said of the Lorillard acquisition.
"We've established blu as a lifestyle brand for smokers."
It feels like what they're trying to do is re-establish a norm that smoking is okay, that smoking is glamorous and acceptableCynthia Hallett, Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights
Electronic cigarettes have been subjected only to minimal scientific study - not enough to demonstrate whether they are safer than tobacco cigarettes or effective as a smoking cessation product like nicotine gum or patches.
The World Health Organization has warnedelectronic cigarettes "pose significant public health issues and raise questions for tobacco control policy and regulation".
And a 2009 test by the US Food and Drug Administration of electronic cigarettes - none from blu - found traces of cancer-causing chemicals and other toxic chemicals.
Electronic cigarettes are either banned or heavily regulated in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany and several other countries.
But in the US, at present electronic cigarettes "are essentially unregulated" says McGoldrick.
Unless they make a therapeutic claim, for example that they can help people quit smoking, they fall in the cracks between federal tobacco regulations and rules covering drug devices like insulin pumps,
In the new commercial, Lorillard appears to have reached into the bag of advertising tricks that got previous generations of Americans hooked on cigarettes, tobacco industry critics say.