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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers Responds: Blu E-Cigarette Brand Pokes Fun at Tobacco Control Policy

Rutgers School of Public Health faculty respond to a recent ad campaign for e-cigarette brand Blu in Tobacco Control. Ahead of new FDA requirements for e-cigarette warning labels coming in August 2018, Rutgers faculty document how one e-cigarette brand in particular, Blu, has been poking fun at this tobacco control policy by mimicking the style of warning labels.

Ads under Blu’s 2017 “Something Better” campaign include large text boxes that have the look of traditional warnings, but actually include product benefit claims within them instead of warning messages  (e.g. “Important: Contains flavor”). According to the study authors Drs. Olivia Wackowski and Jane Lewis, these ads and their tongue-in-cheek gibes at actual warnings might serve as humorous persuasive attempts to increase the brand’s likability or may work to inoculate readers against future warning labels.

While the ads do provide actual warnings, they are barely visible, printed in small, low contrast font at the bottom of the ad. According to Dr.  Wackowski the current campaign “underscores the importance of mandating formatting requirements for uniformity in the display of e-cigarette warnings moving forward”.

Authors also noted that “this is not the first time Blu has taken jabs at tobacco control to sell their product.” A 2012 Blu ad featured an image of an older woman giving us the middle finger with the headline, “Dear Smoking Ban,” and other early ads featured images of actor Mr. Stephen Dorff vaping in indoor settings such as coffee shops and taxis with the slogan “take back your freedom.”

The ads were identified by Trinkets and Trash tobacco advertising surveillance system, a collection and research project headed up by Dr. Lewis at the Rutgers School of Public Health. Trinkets and Trash aims to monitor and document tobacco advertising practices and serve as a resources for researchers, advocates and educators.

E-cigarette brand mocks tobacco control warning labels” was published in Tobacco Control.