(Bloomberg Business – by John Tozzi) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is launching the latest strike in a long-running media battle between public health authorities and the tobacco industry to sway Americans’ feelings about cigarettes. Starting March 30, shop the CDC will roll out a $68 million ad campaign designed to help smokers quit. The campaign expands on the CDC’s three-year-old “Tips From Former Smokers” series, recipe which enlists real people who’ve been ravaged by smoking. And for the first time, treat the new ads will also include former e-cigarette users.
The message wars between the CDC and Big Tobacco have intensified since the rise of electronic cigarettes, which face none of the advertising restrictions that have kept cigarette ads off television since 1971. Before Richard Nixon signed a ban on broadcast advertising, tobacco companies spent 60 percent of their marketing dollars on TV and radio, even using cartoon characters such as Fred Flintstone to market cigarettes to kids.
The industry’s legal settlement with states in 1998 imposed further marketing limits, including a ban on cartoons and billboards. But now that the big tobacco companies all own e-cigarette brands, anti-smoking advocates fear unfettered e-cigarette advertising will encourage puffing on both nicotine vaporizers and old-fashioned burning tobacco.
“This is really an industry, the larger tobacco industry with e-cigarettes, that threatens to get another generation addicted to nicotine,” said Erika Sward, the American Lung Association’s assistant vice president for national advocacy. Seventeen percent of American high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in the past month, compared with 14 percent who smoked tobacco cigarettes, according to a national survey published by the University of Michigan in December.