marlboro man

DID you know that the rugged Marlboro man, all suave and seemingly nonchalant, was a disingenuous marketing move by Philip Morris & Co? Their actual intent was to market the filtered cigarette, which was made in response to the burgeoning scientific evidence citing the harmful effects of smoking.

Now, filtered cigarettes, Marlboros in particular, was at that time considered to be women’s cigarette. Men responded that they were concerned about smoking something that was associated with feminity. The Marlboro man was supposed to embody the ultimate masculinity.

As a result within a year, Marlboro’s market share rose from less than one percent to the fourth best-selling brand. And made filtered cigarette ie the ‘safer’ cigarette, popular as opposed to non filtered ones…

Which basically for me, in this modern era of evidence-based medicine, means ‘out of the fire and into the frying pan’.

Does the story ring familiar?

The thing is despite nearing to a 100 years since the Marlboro man, human civilization still insists on this damning piece of vice. Despite all the damning evidence.

Enter vape.

E cigarette was initially touted to be the safer alternative to smoking. But the original e cigarette wasn’t a hit… nobody wanted anything to do with it. It was the sissy way of stopping cold turkey.

Tobacco companies recognized its potential in 2012, it only needed a little tweaking. They began to acquire e cigarette companies. It was the answer to their rapidly declining cigarette sales. E cigarette was rebranded…  to vape. It was packaged with the whole works required to market to the young, appealing enough to the urban hipster, incessantly touted to be safe enough for everyone.

And lo and behold in our beloved country alone, 1 million vapers were born. The statistics in the US stated that as of 2013, a quarter million lower and middle school children NEVER smoked, but had tried e cigarette. The same picture is seen everywhere else. Imagine that?

How is this modern Marlboro man going to affect our generation?

I did my own little ground level research. It didn’t take long. But it was enough to reach to a sweeping conclusion that most vapers vape for recreational purposes, which includes a large number of school children and women.

Only a small number of smokers actually take it up for what it was really intended to: to assist them in smoking cessation. Good for you and the very best of luck! But look at how many non smokers, gullible children especially, the vaping trend has dragged into this addiction!

Then comes the issue of price. The mod itself may cost you a few hundred ringgit, averaging at 300, if you wanna go up the social vape circle or post it on IG, you should hack up a few more hundreds and buy a limited edition and make your mod well worth your name. While you’re at it, you might wanna go the whole mile and buy the accessories too (ranging from mod stickers to bags).

Flavours? Depending on brands, flavours or e liquid range from RM 15 to 50, zero nicotine content can only last a couple of days for a smoker. Like fashion, you can’t stick to only one flavour, there’s a whole wall to choose from! Thats a thousand ringgit approximately a month! And so there goes your wallet. Like any other addiction, whether nicotine related or merely peer pressure, its effects on ones financial stability is undeniable. This could lead to more finance related domestic problems/abuses at a time when the average middle class is already scrimping their way through their daily needs.

Flavours, the possibilities are endless. With names and tastes that range from alcohol and drugs to lipstick like names laden with sexual innuendoes they are becoming more and more ammoral in their pursuit for creativity and marketing niche. They are even called ‘drug delivery devices’ in some countries!

For the minister who downplayed weed, I’m sorry sir, weed may sound like grass wherever you grew up and/or legal. In this country its offense carries a punishment of death by hanging. More and more evidence are cropping up showing how e liquids are open to abuse due to its aerosol like release, making it relatively difficult to detect harmful substances. Vaping has made it possible to do drugs, still at your discretion, in public!

And thats only my handful of data!! So many other negative effects are emerging, in terms of equipment safety and such. It is just not logical to still choose to accommodate vaping. Will our next generation bow down to this modern Marlboro man?

Will we allow our children and children’s children be a part of a new range of vape-related illnesses? Vape-related statistics? Come and let your voice be heard!

By the by, the Marlboro man died of lung cancer. In case you didn’t know.

Dr Siti Nurhayati Adznan
I-Medik Melaka Activist

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