“Nicotine-infused ice cream” raises awareness of flavoured vapes

Who: The Canadian Lung Association and Heart & Stroke, with Publicis (creative and production), Pirate Radio for sound, and North Strategic for PR.

What: A new hidden camera-based ad campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of flavoured vaping products. Vaping companies say they are made to help people stop smoking, but the products are particularly popular with kids.

When & Where: The video creative was published last week. There’s a 1:40 version on YouTube being promoted through owned and social channels, and shorter versions for social. The ad has been added to broadcast PSA lists, and a paid media push will come later this winter.

Why: Because about 20% of kids in grades 7 to 12 vape, more than 83% of e-cigarette users 15-19 say they use fruit and candy/dessert flavoured vapes, and vaping among teens has increased 74% in the last year.

The problem felt personal to Publicis EVP and creative director Tim Kavander. “I’ve got kids, and my 10 year old was starting to [see] kids at his school vaping—not 10 year olds, but older kids come in the playground vaping. And I was like ‘Oh my god he seems kinda interested in this.'” Kavander wanted to do something about it so he talked to his boss Duncan Bruce. and they took their idea to the Lung Association and Heart and Stroke.

How: The big idea was to highlight the absurdity of producing extravagantly flavoured vape liquids by offering ice cream with similarly sweet names to kids—except with 28% nicotine.

An ice cream truck was parked just outside a downtown Toronto tourist attraction, equipped with six cameras and eight microphones to capture the shocked reaction of parents whose kids were being offered ice cream with nicotine. (Of course the ice cream didn’t actually contain nicotine.)

They shot for a full day, but didn’t need that long, said Kavander.

“We had what we needed in two or three hours because there were just so many people when they got the ice cream were so outraged and freaked out,” he said. “A lot of the people that were really angry didn’t give us permission to use them so… there was certainly a lot more that didn’t’ make it to the final cut.”

What is being done: There are growing calls to ban the sale of flavoured vape liquids outright. And while U.S. President Donald Trump just banned the sale of fruit, dessert and mint flavoured vape liquids in the U.S., only Nova Scotia has done so here (effective April 1 this year). Ottawa, meanwhile, has only chosen to enact stricter advertising rules.

Quote: “They’re telling me cotton candy yum as a flavour is meant to help a 40-year-old guy quit smoking. There’s no way. It’s an insidious practice where you’re trying to get kids hooked on nicotine. It’s a new method of delivering nicotine. And it’s criminal.” —Publicis EVP and creative director Tim Kavander.


David Brown