Controversial Memes, poorly timed or tasteless jokes and relentless trolling are just a few of the methods that fame hungry social media ‘icons’ use to reach as wide an audience as possible, and while many contentious viral threads may be created with no real malice, it is argued that some are strategically placed on the web as manipulative propaganda tools for more pernicious agendas.

You may have seen the ‘my first vape’ image doing the rounds on social media. The counterfeit picture depicts a hoax bubble toy for babies which mirrors the design of an e-cigarette, with e-liquid bottled shaped ‘refills’. The name of the made-up product… My First Vape.

My First vape Tweet

I’d presume that the majority of browsers who stumble upon the meme on social media will take the post with a pinch of salt and play it off as another piece of dark internet humour, however could ‘my first vape’ have been intended as more than just a joke?

Is Pfizer behind the My First Vape Meme?

Vaping360 have proposed a theory asking if Pfizer, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, could have been behind the ‘hoax’.

The basis of this hypothesis is that the meme was created by Adam Padilla, co-founder of BrandFire, a marketing and advertising consulting firm based in New York. BrandFire work with global brands including Coca-Cola, Budweiser, IKEA and notably, Pfizer.

According to Vaping360, ‘Pfizer donates a lot of money to organisations that work hard to discredit and restrict vaping products and one could only presume that this is to minimise the threat of competition to its quit-smoking medication, Chantix. Indeed more broadly, the continuing slur campaign’s clear attempt to arrest vaping’s progression and its removal of millions from requirements for Pfizer’s and other pharmaceutical companies extraordinarily lucrative palliative treatments for its future smoking patients. Indeed more broadly, the continuing slur campaign’s clear attempt to arrest vaping’s progression and its removal of millions from requirements for Pfizer’s and other pharmaceutical companies extraordinarily lucrative palliative treatments for its future smoking patients.

Further evidence used by Vaping360 to back up this theory is Adam Padilla’s notoriety for fake ads, not least his ‘Fisher-Price Happy Hour Playset’. Padilla is described as a “disruptive social media personality” on his own website and the Happy Hour Playset certainly disrupted social media back in December.

Happy hour Playset

He played the Fisher-Price playset off as a joke in an interview with Mashable and claimed it was intended to expose the threat of fake news as he said:

“It goes to show the power of the internet to take a story viral. The right mix of pop culture and realism, with a bit of technical skill can really send something around the world pretty quickly.”

So, presumably ‘My first vape’ is just another ingenious way to expose fake news…

Think of it what you will, many may see Vaping360’s hypothesis as just another conspiracy theory and the Pfizer connection may just be coincidental, but there may be more to it than that. Whether this campaign is considered pharmaceutical company anti-vaping propaganda or not, the important point to make is that defamation of the e-cigarette sector is a very real issue; undertaken to hinder the growth of a flourishing industry focused around tobacco harm reduction.

Totally Wicked is very vigilant when abiding by regulations and certainly when complying with age restrictions, as are the vast majority of UK vaping companies. Stunts likes ‘My First Vape’ therefore undermines the hard work and responsibility maintained by the majority of vaping firms.

Dealing with excessive regulation and competing with both ruthless tobacco giants and merciless pharmaceutical companies are already pretty substantial hurdles that vape companies must overcome.Competition and legislative issues (although extraordinary in the vape sector) are factors that most industries must encounter. However, malicious underhand tactics such as fake news intended to malign the vaping industry’s integrity is a separate issue that cannot be condoned. So while the contrived vape-shaped bubble toy may be played off as a joke, the ill-natured undertones it possesses do no favours whatsoever for public health.

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