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According to the PR industry’s top trade publication, PR Week, the biggest public relations and ad agencies are reportedly saying “no thanks” to e-cigarette clients. This is problematic for e-cigarette companies, who are scrambling to change public perception just as federal and state governments are bearing down hard on e-cigarettes and vaping.

Although e-cigarettes were originally invented to help smokers quit, the spike in underage e-cigarette users, and the fears of many government officials and public health agencies about addicting a new generation to nicotine has effectively lumped vaping in with Big Tobacco, a perception e-cigarette companies believe is unfair, and want to change.

The problem is that they may not have anyone willing to help them.

More than 11 million adults in the U.S. use e-cigarettes, e-cigarettes are expected to reach more than $26 billion in sales worldwide by 2023.

The FDA has been eyeing e-cigarettes to help smokers quit and recent research discovered that vaping can actually double a smokers’ chance of quitting.

According to PRWeek, “Many vaping opponents in PR are signees of the Quit Big Tobacco pledge, including Edelman, which decades ago worked on behalf of tobacco companies.”

In the last year, teen vaping has increased dramatically by 78%, according to the Centers for Disease Control – and companies like JUUL (which is owned by Big Tobacco’s Altria) and Eonsmoke have been called out for allegedly targeting minors, especially on teen-friendly social media, in their marketing efforts.

While most marketers would love to include a 78% market gain year over year in their portfolios, few communications agencies want to be responsible for what former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Gottlieb called the “epidemic” of teen vaping.

Is this another death knell sounding for the vaping industry? It’s too soon to tell, but when PR firms pass up money, it’s certainly cause for alarm.

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