HO HO – OH NO! | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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December 17, 2013

As we’ve documented, manufacturers of electronic cigarettes are using the same slick tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids. They have celebrity spokespeople, ads with rugged men and glamorous women just like the Marlboro Men and Virginia Slims women of old, race car sponsorships, sweet flavors and even a cartoon pitchman.

Now one e-cigarette retailer has stooped to a new low in copying Big Tobacco’s playbook. Vapor Shark features Santa Claus in a billboard ad for its e-cigarettes that was spotted on I-95 in Miami. The company’s products come in a wide variety of flavors including “Candy Cane Menthol,” “Sour Apple” and “Blueberry Waffle.”

Where might Vapor Shark have gotten the idea to use Santa in its ad? Maybe from looking at old tobacco ads, which for decades featured the jolly old man in red himself.

Santa was often depicted happily smoking a pipe or cigarette, sometimes with a sack full of cigarette cartons instead of toys. Not only was this an attempt by tobacco companies to associate smoking with the good cheer of the holidays, it was also clearly aimed at Santa’s most rapt audience: children.

Santa’s just as much on the minds of kids as ever. And this year Vapor Shark is associating him with e-cigarettes.

Given the irresponsible marketing of e-cigarettes, it’s not surprising that youth use of e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012, when 10 percent of high school students reported ever having used e-cigarettes, according to a CDC survey.

When e-cigarette companies start shamelessly using Santa Claus to peddle their products, it’s clear the FDA needs to act quickly to regulate e-cigarettes and take steps to prevent their marketing and sale to kids. And state and local governments need to do their part by applying their tobacco regulations to e-cigarettes as well.

Source of vintage Chesterfield and Lucky Strike advertising: Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising