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The Term ‘ eCigarette ‘ Opened The Door To Critics

By Tyler McCanus

Tuesday March 24, 2015
the term ecig and its association with the word cigarette has led to misperceptions
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With all the controversy that the ecigarette industry has gone through, and is still going through, some people, like a top Blu ecig executive, wonder if it all could have been avoided. The term ‘ ecigarette ‘ itself has proved to be a stumbling block that has opened the door to critics and connected a device that has the potential to save millions to a product that has killed millions.

The term electronic cigarettes, ecigs, or even water vapor cigarettes, brings a certain image to mind for most people now. Maybe they think of a popular brand like Blu e cig or maybe they think of the device they have seen friends using, those trying to make the switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes. Whatever that specific image is for any one person, it does have some relevancy to the product itself, but what journey did it take to get there?

For the connotation of ecigarettes to stick to something resembling what they do or are isn’t a small feat. Back when ecigs first started arriving in America, with companies like Safe Cig (now closed) and Green Smoke, and later Blu e cig, leading the charge, the term must have seemed frightening.

Think about a time when you didn’t know what these devices were, and then have someone start telling you about an “electronic cigarette” that they heard about. It sounded pretty out there, that’s the truth. Even the term “water vapor cigarettes” wasn’t too much better. It was just hard to understand what these ecig vapor things were supposed to be or what purpose they served.

Turns out they also brought a lot of unnecessary flack to a newly emerging product that was trying to grab a foothold. If we just think about what would have been best for this new industry trying to get off the ground, then maybe instantly associating itself with cigarettes wasn’t a good thing.

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This is basically the point that Blu e cig top executive Jacob Fuller makes. “Our biggest mistake was to call it an ecigarette in the first place” he said. Fuller explained this further, saying “This means that people are automatically associating it with a traditional cigarette, which it isn’t, other than the fact it looks a bit like one and produces a vapour.”

Having that “c” word in there, whether it was for electronic cigarettes or water vapor cigarettes, made all the difference. The word ecigarette is so connected to the negative image of the word cigarette that associations became inevitable.

Another point that Fuller makes is that the word cigarette caused people to think they couldn’t use it where smoking wasn’t allowed, such as inside restaurants. They same stigma is attached and that has been a detriment to the possibilities that the ecigarette holds for smokers.

Even the comforting moniker Safe Cig or the seemingly environmentally friendly Green Smoke name couldn’t change the view for many people. Then again, we wonder if it had to do with the name or the fact that smoking had been given such a bad name that possibly breaking any rules simply brought up fear in the user. They were so used to being shunned, that taking a drag, even off of water vapor ecigarettes, made them feel guilty or worried about what others around them were thinking.

Obviously such a situation must have made it very difficult to market these products in the beginning, before anyone knew what they were. Fuller confirms that the early going was indeed rough. “There are people who don’t know much about the product and getting them to that stage before they put the phone down can be hard” he said. Creativity was the key according to the Blu e cig executive, and it turned out to pay off in a big way for the company who was later bought out by tobacco giant Lorillard.

So how could things have progressed if pioneering companies like Safe Cig, Green Smoke, and Blu e cig had called their products something else? Would their marketing efforts have been easier if they called them inhalers or vape sticks or anything else that didn’t have the word cigarette in it? We’ll never know the answer to that, but we can speculate on it, as we like to do around here! Already we have Big Tobacco trying to re-brand the ecig business as the e-vapor industry.

While it is possible that initially the marketing push might have been a little easier if they were called something else, we doubt the long-term difference it could have made. Eventually people were going to understand what these things did, whether we called them electronic cigarettes, water vapor cigarettes, or battery puff puffs.

The controversy may have not been helped by the terminology that was chosen, but it certainly isn’t the only reason people are going after the ecig industry. That comes down to money and politics a lot of the time, and no name alteration could have kept those two factors from looming large on a new industry. It’s a nice idea, but we’ll keep using the term ecigarette anyway and using it proudly.

Tyler,

Team ECCR

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