Ads for e-cigarettes – or "digital vapor cigarettes" -- where users breathe in water vapor, not smoke, sometimes with a hint of flavor, have started appearing on TV. The e-cigarettes look cool at parties and seemingly get a nice reaction from one's lungs.
Initial purveyors of these products using TV to sell their wares came from relative unknown marketers. But now the products have move to the bigger companies, with R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest cigarette maker, among them. Reynolds will reportedly start TV ads for its e-cigarette, Vuse.
Along with this will come complaints that traditional tobacco companies are using e-cigarettes as a gateway product. One bit of research supports this theory: 40% of current traditional cigarette users have tried e-cigarettes.
Media-wise cigarette companies can still buy ads for their traditional products on other platforms, especially magazines. But TV has always been the big media driver for many consumer products.
TV advertising for another questionable, but legal, product -- hard liquor -- changed in the mid-1990s when a voluntary ban began to come undone. Ads first started on many cable TV networks, then moved to broadcast networks and stations in fringe time periods, like late night.
To be sure, new e-cigarette marketing isn't a philanthropic effort. Reynolds said it is not marketing the device to tobacco smokers looking to eventually quit, nor will it make any "health claims" in its Vuse marketing.
The environment for recreational products with troubled pasts continues to change. Consider the notion of widespread marketing -- including TV -- for marijuana products, newly legal in some states.