In Dire Warnings by Big Tobacco on E-Smoking, the New York Times examines the perplexing case of tobacco companies makers like Marlboro’s manufacturer, Altria, voluntarily placing extensive warnings on their electronic cigarettes. The author and experts find themselves scratching their heads about tobacco company motivations. Their consensus is that the strategy is cynical and probably designed to protect the companies from future lawsuits. In any case, “many people don’t read the warnings anyway.”
There’s some truth to these interpretations, but I would go further and take an even more cynical view. Consider:
- Before the 2000 stock market crash, financial analysts with clear conflicts of interest put out biased “buy” recommendations for companies they wanted to pump. Disclaimers within the reports cited the conflicts, but somehow people just read right past that or even considered it a positive. Surely if someone was disclosing a conflict of interest they wouldn’t be so brazen as to actually put out biased information! But the analysts were more cynical than that.
- Mortgage documents are filled with so many protections these days that they have become simply too lengthy to read, and borrowers’ eyes glaze over as they apply their initials and signatures to page after page after page.
- Plenty of anti-smoking ads (often paid for with tobacco settlement funds) inadvertently or intentionally glamorize cigarette smoking with their edgy, youthful appeal. I saw one recently while at the gym –called “Unpaid Tobacco Spokesperson”– that typified the genre. The ad itself seems to do everything it’s telling people not to. I think it’s absurd.
So basically my opinion is that the e-cigarette ads are intended to lull people into a false sense of safety about these products by warning against them in so much detail.