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Cigarette Marketing in a Post-Cigarette World

The specific claims a company can make about its products to the public in its marketing and advertising is at the heart of consumer law, which seeks to protect consumers from being misled.


To boil down the history of cigarette marketing in America last century, you could draw a line between the Marlboro Man and the Master Settlement Agreement.

Marlboro Man vs. Master Settlement

On the left side of the line, the Marlboro Man represents classic tobacco company advertising. On the right side of the line, the Marlboro Man has ceased to exist, replaced with the Master Settlement Agreement, or MSA. Under the MSA, the major tobacco companies were required to pay out billions to the states to compensate them for the cost of citizens' smoking-related illnesses, among other things.

This boiled-down history is over-simplified, but illustrates how much things can change with time. The Marlboro Man, introduced in the 1950s, rode in on his horse for decades during commercial breaks, pairing his image of masculinity with cigarettes, until he was outlawed from television in the early 1970s. But the TV ban didn't mean the end of the Marlboro Man, who continued on in print form.

Ultimately, Philip Morris owed its best-selling cigarette to the man from Marlboro Country (The Marlboro Man, AdAge).

Today, the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, as well as other ailments, is well documented and widely accepted, and per the conditions spelled out in the MSA (signed in the late 1990s), the tobacco companies were required to disband the "research institutes" that produced opposing science.

But this doesn't mean the tobacco companies have given up entirely.

Likely in part to the vaping associated with marijuana use, as well as the legalization of recreational marijuana itself, the tobacco companies are seeking a way to compete for market share. In vaping, marijuana is heated prior to the point of combustion, so that what a user inhales is cannabis vapor rather than smoke. This is often regarded as a safer method of use.

Enter the Philip Morris iQOS stick, which does the same thing by producing nicotine vapor. If Philip Morris's government application proves successful, the company that created the Marlboro Man would finally be able to make the claim that vaping nicotine is safer (Vaping Can Be Addictive, New York Times). But, as per the Times report, safer doesn't mean non-addictive.

After all, nicotine is nicotine.

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