The recent full-page ad in several magazines which presented a brand of e-vapor inhalation stuck me as being most peculiar. Barely discernible through the foggy cloud of a woman blowing smoke toward a microphone in what really could be called Smokey Joe’s Café are a big XL in red letters and the words “Full on vapor”[N.B. vapor, not flavor] and the phrase “XL draw XL taste XL experience.” Those are the only words promoting the experience. Below the photo is a boxed warning in easy-to-read lettering: “Warning: This product is not intended for use by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, or persons with or at risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or taking medicine for depression or asthma. Nicotine is addictive and habit-forming, and is very toxic by inhalation. Nicotine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and cause dizziness, nausea, and stomach pain. Inhalation of this product may aggravate existing respiratory conditions.”
How many adults on this planet do not suffer from one of the conditions described in the box? Surely this is unique way of promoting a product by listing many more deleterious effects of using it than advantages to purchasing it. Even in the 1950s, when concerns about smoking began to appear, tobacco manufacturers concentrated on the virtues of their brand, e.g., “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” Sometimes the advertisers answered singing questions such as “What have Viceroys got that other filter tip cigarettes haven’t got?” with “20,000 tiny filters to filter, filter, filter your smoke so the rich, rich flavor comes through.” We knew the pitch was a smokescreen, but at least it was a positive one.
Today even the smokeless tobacco options feature happy young men and women playing games inside or outdoors accompanied by cheery phrases “When good times become great times” and “A pinch better” and “Mint masters,” the only caveat being “This product may cause gum disease and tooth loss.”
What would happen if other companies followed the e-vaporators on the downer trail by inserting more discouraging than positive language in their ad campaigns?
Right below that colorful come-on extolling the virtues of a 10-night cultural cruise to the fascinating island nation of Cuba spotlighting the quaint villages and natural parks would be the wording; “Warning: Any deviation from guided tours will likely result in prolonged captivity in durance vile. Visitors donning false beards and furtively running though jungles muttering anti-communist slogans may be subjected to target practice. Tourists with a history of asthma or respiratory problems are advised not to attempt to smuggle one of the 1950s American automobiles out of the country because smugglers in the past have been stuffed four at a time into trunks of vehicles best known as 1955 Chevy Hell Airs.”
The invitation to “Make Outside Your Kind of Beautiful” certainly seems appealing when teamed with a tall patio fireplace and pristine stones under an open wooden canopy, complemented by lit candles placed on an onyx table while a young couple sipping wine enjoy a tranquil evening. The company that creates “the setting for moments that last a lifetime” might add “Warning: Our products not for use in any climate that is subject to winds over 5 MPH, rain, sleet, or snow. Any leaves, branches, or deceased animals should be removed immediately or patio stones may be discolored permanently. Unlike model holding glass of wine in photo, purchasers of this product are advised to dump contents of liquids in the faces of seated companions rather than drop on stones or throw in fireplace.”
The upwardly mobile yearning for high-end watches are encouraged to “Begin their own tradition” because “You never actually own a Patek Phillipe, you merely take care of it for the next generation.” There is plenty of space below the Diamond Ribbon model for this warning: “The tradition begun may be one of making payments in perpetuity, which is why banks may own more of timepiece than purchaser. Those not meeting payments may be taken care of ways that may prove harmful to breathing.”
Even a clean ad showing a barebacked man apparently about to try on a yellow Hermes coat with the simple wording “Objects for Life” would need a warning along these lines: “Exposing skin to the sun without adequate sunscreen will result in melanoma spots larger than the white circles on the jacket shown. Sunscreen might attract hordes of yellow jackets.”
Anyone who has marveled at the sleek lines of modern chairs seen in glossy home magazines and revered by interior decorators would agree that the Knoll line is modern always because modern always works. The warning by the sharply-angled red chairs that resemble aircraft wings would be succinct: “Sitting in these chairs is not recommended for people with arthritis, rheumatism, sciatic conditions, limited vision, and irascible temperament.”
“The only refrigerator that gives you the chills” pitch might give some readers the willies and the urge to give Jenn the Air. The wide-open obsidian interior displaying well-lit, perfectly ripe food in a state of freshness can best be achieved in a photographic studio and has never appeared in any home for longer than thirty minutes. Such beauty is a joy that won’t last forever because buyers would have to be cautioned “Finding yourself transfixed in front of the beauties of the obsidian interior will likely lead to wheezing, sneezing, pneumonia, and consumer remorse.”
Duck hunters who want to “dominate the skies” are encouraged to buy and use Benelli’s Super Black Eagle 3 like the rugged, drenched hunter kneeling on wave-splashed rocks. “When you chase an obsession to extremes, this is what you take with you.” The one-inch space at the bottom of the ad would leave room for this warning: “What you may bring back with you is hypothermia, frost-bitten fingers, and hopes dashed upon the midnight rocks.”
Benelli’s catch phrase, “Simply perfect,” should inspire the providers of noxious vaping products to replace the smokescreen and persiflage in their ads with a stark skull and crossbones, the simply perfect symbol for piracy and death.