We hear this all the time. Vaping smeared with the accusation that we are in fact Big Tobacco and using their famed playbook.

We decided to look into this and ask a few questions.

What exactly is the Big Tobacco Playbook we keep hearing about?

Is the vaping Industry a clone of Big Tobacco, complete with nefarious tactics?

The Big Tobacco playbook.

This is a reference, (and now a common phrase used to describe a certain behavior) that was initially about the PR plan put in place to save the tobacco industry.  In 1953 it was discovered that smoking cigarettes was really bad for you, and it appeared that a lucrative business – tobacco - was about to go under, because they had been found covering up the evidence. The industry, (well, the four big players at the time) hired a PR guru named John Hill, and he set about saving the tobacco industry.

How did he do this?

By disputing indisputable facts’.

‘Unquestionable sources were questioned’.

 He basically cast doubt on every piece of research that was provided against the Industry. 

 ‘By January 1954, the industry had published A Frank Statement” in 448 media publications across the US, reaching some 43m people. The statement cast doubt on the science linking smoking with ill health and pledged to smokers that it would create the now defunct Tobacco Industry Research Committee, hiring the best scientists to get to the truth. What it did not say is that the committee would support almost without exception, projects which are not related directly to smoking and lung cancer. Obfuscation and diversion were key to the strategy, as were “alternative facts”.

Obfuscation and diversion, plus alternative facts(Keep those in mind) 

The Big Tobacco playbook includes the tobacco industry lying, of covering up the facts, of advertising to kids via flavors. Tobacco are more recently accused of having a majority share in the vaping market.  We believe ‘dominate’ is the preferred word, and tobacco companies have been lambasted for supporting harm reduction, not cessation.

Now let’s look at vaping, through the lens of the Big Tobacco Playbook

1) Has the vaping Industry lied to the public?


Can you name an instance when a vaping company has come out and outright lied about vaping?  About the harms? About the benefits? As an Industry we are incredibly careful about not lying. We do our best to show you the facts. Good and bad.

2) Has the vaping Industry covered up the research findings?


The industry looks towards research to guide us. To help us show how life changing, for the better, our products are. When things needed to change – such as diacetyl removed from e-liquid– the Industry turned on a dime and removed it.

When poor research is published, the Industry will highlight it, ask questions and hold the researchers to account.  They don’t hide research findings, they asses them and act on them if needed.

 3) Advertising to kids.

This is a thorny issue, because adults like flavors too – and if any product that has flavors was accused of advertising to kids in order to lure them – it would immediately highlight the stupidity of this accusation.

Have there been some idiot companies with their labelling? Yes. But the Industry as a whole is responsible, and does not advertise to kids, because we are not about attracting youth – we are about attracting adult smokers that want to switch. We are about harm reduction. We do all we can to deter kids from vaping, purely because we know the difficulties of being addicted to smoking.

4) Tobacco dominance?

This is a myth. A certain e cigarette company that is being hounded by the FDA have allegedly over 50% of the market share. An e cig company dominates the market – not the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is too slow to innovate, they can’t keep up with the nimble Chinese factories updating their products every month or so.  The Tobacco Industry is like a dinosaur competing with a kid on an X box when it comes to innovation.

Does Big T have more lobby clout than vaping? Absolutely, and they certainly use it.  

5) Hiring a PR company.

This has not happened. The Vaping Industry is not united (sadly). It has been accused of hiring the same law firm as tobacco to fight regulations, and that is somehow now part of ‘the playbook’.

Yet, if you knew a legal firm that was successful at fighting not fit for purpose regulations, would you or would you not hire them?

Vaping is an Industry – a business.

Let’s now look at anti-tobacco through the same lens.

1) Have they lied about e-cigarettes? 

Yes. They have lied about the harms, they have lied about the gateway effect, they have lied about the effectiveness of it being a cessation tool, they have lied about pretty much all aspects of vaping.

2) Have they published poor research that has easily been de-bunked?

Yes - Formaldehyde

3) Have they hidden or spun the results of positive research regarding vaping?

YouTube video 

4) Have they orchestrated their own PR campaign?

Yes – they are using flavors and getting Attorney Generals involved - YouTube Video

5) Are they using kids?

Yes. They skew the research results by asking if a child has vaped in the last 30 days, therefore capturing the curious one-off puff, that then becomes a statistical vaper to wave in regulatory faces. They use them in their campaigns against vaping, and they are spreading disinformation that vaping is a gateway to smoking in teens, when smoking rates are at an all-time low.

“The hysteria is being fueled by tobacco control researchers with, “blind commitment to a bad theory,” says Dr. Carrie Wade, harm reduction policy director for the R Street Institute, in an editorial for Real Clear Science.”

6) Are they suing the FDA for not acting fast enough?

Yes. This is a noise making move, nothing more, but it’s good PR.

It’s all about diversion away from the facts.

The most important type of story is that which casts doubt in the cause and effect theory of disease and smoking. Eye-grabbing headlines should strongly call out the point – Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns.” Ah yes, the ‘we don’t know’ of the unknowns. As a vaper you are well versed in the scare stories about vaping. We all read on them a weekly basis. This is straight out of the Big Tobacco Playbook. The gateway theory is a diversion. Smearing Juul is a diversion. Having unsubstantiated headlines wing their way around the globe is a diversion.

But back to our questions at the start of the article:

Who is taking a leaf out of Big tobacco playbook?

Who is using obfuscation and diversion? The vaping industry isn’t using it or playing by it.