I hardly ever smoke. But when I do, I smoke a real cigarette. I’ve never been a heavy smoker but in my late teens it was definitely a weekly occurrence. Now in my 20s, I’d say I smoke the equivalent of one or two packs a year. Usually these rare occurrences are reserved for a 5 euro packet of Camel Blue I purchase on my end of summer Greek vacation. I might also have one on that first day of warmth in the park and another when really drunk at my fashionable aunt’s birthday party (she only smokes Vogues because she’s a 1990s PR girl)…

Anyway, as an ex-smoker, I believe this to be the healthiest relationship I could have with cigarettes. Something I have never been keen on is vaping. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure it helps heavy smokers curb an addictive habit, but what I have noticed is that many both smoke and vape or vape excessively as an attempt to quit tobacco. Personally, I’ve never been attracted to all the chemicals and flavors and the simple artificiality of it. The California Tobacco Prevention Program seems to agree with me. 

“Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland” is a new spot from independent agency Duncan Channon warning Californians about harms of vaping and the disinformation and half-truths spread by the tobacco industry. 

A series of 30-second ads spotlight the tobacco industry’s disinformation. In one, a man is welcomed to a plush corporate retreat, complete with smiling receptionist and calming music. He’s gifted a golden vape pen and walks into a swirling abyss, where he joins others with gold vape pens who are struggling to escape a surreal nightmare. A calm voiceover narrates the hellish journey, ending with the warning: “In Big Tobacco’s Fantasyland, the deadliest industry is your friend.” 

The ads are designed to seem calm and serene at first glance, said Anne Elisco-Lemme, executive creative director at Duncan Channon.

The spots are directed by Ghanaian-Dutch filmmaker and visual artist Emmanuel Adjei, whose works typically explore ideas such as power, freedom, displacement and inequality. The ads were also deliberate in their casting, including people of color and LGBTQIA+ people, which are populations specifically targeted by the tobacco industry.

The media strategy for the campaign is designed to reach the diverse audiences targeted by the tobacco industry and is adapted into six other languages to better reach those communities. The campaign will run across all advertising formats, including TV, radio, streaming audio, digital, print and out-of-home. This includes high impact OOH in units near several California landmarks, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame, SoFi Stadium and Golden 1 Center.

In California, 110 people die every day from tobacco-related disease, and 6 trillion cigarettes are still sold each year, according to CTPP. The tobacco industry has also attempted to rebrand e-cigarettes in recent years, claiming they’re healthier than regular cigarettes. Many flavored vapes have also been banned by the FDA because they appeal to children, but are still easily available in the U.S. through online sales. 

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