The Ford government’s plan to ban vaping advertising in convenience stores and gas stations marks the province’s first move to limit the influence of the slick, highly visual campaigns behind products like JUUL and Vype, but the jury is still out on how effective such a move will be.
Those who already vape and know where to get those products will likely just keep going back there, according to experts. That’s why Mike Leon, president of marketing agency Brand Hero, thinks the province’s ad ban is a move that will be more effective in steering the younger crowd away from the better-tasting, “cooler” form of taking in nicotine.
“Once you remove the advertising, what you really remove is the emotional layer that comes with these products,” Leon said.
“If you strip that back, it’s no longer about the emotion, it’s just about the product.”
In a statement emailed to Global News, JUUL says it will follow the province’s new advertising rules, writing, “JUUL Labs Canada is committed to working cooperatively with regulators and policymakers to combat underage use, while providing an alternative to adult smokers. We will fully comply with the final policy when effective.”
However, Leon warns the province and others trying to deter the use of vaping that they shouldn’t expect the companies behind such products to sit idly by.
“This is only convenience stores and gas stations, so there’s a whole bunch of other ways that brands can find the youth and market to them,” he said. “And believe me, they will.”
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association says it also is willing to abide by the province’s new ad rules, but CEO Dave Bryans said he doesn’t understand why its members are the only ones that have to.
“We’re quite concerned about this unlevel playing field,” Bryans told Global News.
“Why are there different rules for different retailers on the same product? And at the same time, why are you able to still have billboards on the Gardiner highway or posters all over the Union Station?”
It was a couple decades ago that advertising bans started being slowly phased in on tobacco products in Canada; and efforts to make smoking cigarettes less attractive continue to this day with impending plans to put them in plain packaging with large, grotesque warnings about their effects.
Friday’s announcement from Queen’s Park could, theoretically, mark some of the first steps toward heavier-handed measures against vaping.
Several states in the U.S. have banned the sale of flavoured vaping juice and President Donald Trump is currently working on a federal version of that measure, but some are wondering if both vaping and smoking tobacco have such bad health effects, why not just ban both?
It’s a suggestion the Toronto-based Ontario Tobacco Research Unit said needs to be made a reality.
“If what it takes to do that is to move cigarette smokers over to e-cigarettes temporarily, then that’s fine,” said executive director Robert Schwartz. He said once cigarettes are eradicated, vaping should be next on the list.
“After a while, we want to get rid of all of this kind of product that is causing so much illness.”
The federal government has a goal of reducing tobacco use to less than five per cent by 2035. Schwartz suggested that, with the right plan, it could actually be possible to hit zero by that time.