By Tempest Wright, Staff Writer/Illustrator –  June 27, 2019

The Massive Rebrand of Tobacco

According to The Economic Timesa rebrand is what a company or organization undergoes to change its image for the better. For example, something as arbitrary as high fructose corn syrup – a common sugar additive and preservative – made changes to its product labeling when public health discussions surrounding the product turned sour. Once the sales of foods containing the ingredient started to drop, corn farmers and food companies that rely on its use decided to change the name of the product to corn sugar or fructose, according to Forbes. However, a rebrand isn’t always as simple as changing a name. Sometimes, a company has to do a near complete overhaul to change its image, as was the case with Apple during the 1990s. Food and technology aren’t the only industries that subject themselves to this process. In fact, Big Tobacco is arguably in the midst of a major rebrand right now.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that people use to inhale aerosol that contains nicotine. Some e-cigarettes also come with different vapor flavorings. As of today, the devices take on many different appearances – they can look like traditional cigarettes, cigars, or even USB drives. Though it appears as a modern invention, e-cigarettes, also known as vape pens, have been around since 1967, according to Procter & Gamble (P&G). It wasn’t until 2003 that e-cigarettes were fashioned by the Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, as a cleaner way to smoke tobacco and jumpstart tobacco cessation. However, research points to the idea that e-cigarettes may not be as helpful as advertised. In fact, they may perpetuate the harm that they claim to remedy.

With the number of cigarette smokers dropping, it seems as though the tobacco industry looks to vaping as a brand new market by which to stay afloat. E-cigarettes have always been positioned as a stop-smoking tool, but the American Heart Association (AHA) states that users who vape are likely to participate in dual use and continue to smoke cigarettes while also vaping. Additionally, the AHA reports that vaping is the most common form of tobacco indulged by children and teenagers, and that many students are drawn to vapes due to their extensive range of flavors. Additionally, e-cigarettes still contain some of the same harmful substances that cigarettes do, such as nicotine, heavy metals, and chemicals that cause lung disease and cancer. Secondhand vapor is also a danger to those who inhale it, much like secondhand smoke.

A rebrand in any industry is meant to revitalize a company and place special interest on the needs of its consumers. However, Big Tobacco seems to be more concerned with its own monetary bottom line than the health of the people to whom it sells. The tobacco industry is mammoth and will do whatever it takes to stay that way, including selling people what amounts to nothing more than a high-tech, 21st century cigarette. They will say that it’s better for you, while using misleading tactics that have worked in the past, such as funding and releasing its own research. Marketing is a powerful tool, but it’s up to consumers to be diligent and aware of the products they back with their dollars. If not for the ethical aspect of it all, consumers may choose to stay educated for the sake of their own health.


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