Big tobacco has always been a powerful industry, and they have weathered more crisis and stumbling blocks than most. The latest thorn in their side are electronic cigarettes, more commonly referred to as “e-cigs”. This burgeoning industry has awakened the titans that make up “Big Tobacco”, companies such as Philip Morris, Altria (owners of Marlboro), and others, and these companies have been waging a PR war
calculated at keeping the new kid on the block from becoming even more of a threat to its market share than it already is.
Made up of numerous, smaller companies and manufacturers, for a PR professional this is an amazing, if daunting, opportunity for a firm to prove its worth. Any industry which can take a portion of the smoker’s market away from more established firms will certainly be profitable, but this means taking on Big Tobacco, an opponent with a history of winning the battles that count. Before taking on such a task, it’s important to keep focus on these key PR points.
The Dangers Exist, Do Not Deny Them
A tactic which tobacco companies have used in the past which no longer applies is the ability to spin away the dangers. Thanks to the internet denying the health risks that nicotine poses is a losing proposition. There is little use and less reason, especially with the wealth of e-cig products that do not contain nicotine that are available.
Instead of denying that those dangers exist, acknowledge that the dangers do exist and then shift the focus away from nicotine and onto how helpful e-cigs are at helping users quit far more dangerous cigarette products. If relevant, never fail to point out when nicotine content is at decreased levels, or at the user’s discretion. After all, for those purchasing nicotine products, the dangers are assumed to be well-known, and as acceptable as the dangers of consuming alcohol products.
The Science Is Already On The Side of E-cigs
While there is never as much science done as anyone would like, the findings that are already in seem to be landing on the side of e-cigs. With studies reporting fewer toxins, and some brands offering nicotine-free alternatives, there is every reason in the world to be publishing these findings everywhere they might gain traction.
Most recently it has even been established that e-cigs are able to help smokers quit, a two-for-one message that electronic cigarette providers should get behind with as much force as can be mustered. In a report published by Public Health England, as reported by CNN, “stated that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than normal cigarettes, and that the "public health opportunities" of these devices should be maximized. The authors of the report recommended that a range of prescription-based e-cigarette options be available, as there are for nicotine replacement therapies.”
Join The Stop Smoking Movement
In light of the findings above, electronic cigarette companies would be wise to find allies amongst the “Stop Smoking” initiatives. While smoking may never be entirely eliminated from society, e-cigs are uniquely positioned as both a cessation aid as well as a lifestyle choice. Messages could be manufactured which could not only encourage cigarette smokers to use e-cigs as a way to quit smoking without having to give up the lifestyle and habits they have built around it. The pathway from cessation aid to nicotine-free smoking alternative can be tricky to navigate, but the company which succeeds will have successfully positioned themselves above the fray as well as above reproach.
Use Big Tobacco’s Reputation Against Them
The final point to remember is that thanks to the cynicism which pervades reactions to messages implemented by tobacco companies, thanks in large part to exposes, documentaries, and even popular movies, the best PR weapon a firm has is the reputation “Big Tobacco” has earned for itself. As tobacco companies push for regulation as a form of good will, and to keep the playing field level, the push-back should be one which is understandable of these efforts, as they are consistent with what “Big Tobacco” has always done.
Regulate themselves into bigger profits.
Public perception has always been critical of any company’s attempts at using regulation as a competitive advantage, and focusing on how these tactics are being used by cigarette companies to fight against a cessation aid that acts as a safer, healthier alternative is the exact sort of response that cigarette companies would be wise to avoid responding to.