As you’ve surely heard, there are actually businesses that look at the current pandemic as an opportunity for growth.  Netflix added 15.77 million paid subscriptions, more than double the predicted number (worldwide total now 183 million). But commercial cannabis firms are also pushing hard to expand their customer base while the getting’s good. And, no surprise, so are many of the prominent players in the vape business.

Tobacco, vaping industries seize opportunities in coronavirus with freebies, donations

As cigarette sales decline, tobacco companies have already invested heavily in electronic cigarettes and vaping. The goal is to replace lost revenue as well as build future income by intensive marketing of youth-friendly products like Juul. Some of the promotions currently to be found online and off:

  • Giveaways. Act Now and Get Two Free Surgical Masks with your order! boasts one offer. Or win a shot at 10,000 such masks, claims another. That’s the Powerball model popularized by your state lottery. Apparently the larger the prize, the larger the number of tickets sold – despite the fact that odds of actually winning are now far, far less.
  • Discounts. Particularly on vape cartridges that must be replaced. The idea is to encourage the customer to make larger purchases (stockpiling) in case availability declines and the price, presumably, goes up.
  • Free samples: Always a popular ploy. The idea is that we’ve already received something of value (however negligible) from the seller, obliging us to do something for them in return – even if it’s only to pay attention. Ever accept one of those “free” trips to a resort in exchange for a couple hours sitting through a boring sales presentation? “I figured it would be worth it,” a friend reported back. “I was wrong.”

We ran into a woman who in the past had applied for a job at a company that made an affordable (relatively speaking) brand of cigarette.  The two young execs smoked up a storm throughout the interview. At one point they asked if she was a smoker, and she admitted she was not. “You might want to start,” they suggested.

There’s actually a long history of tobacco firms promoting their products in times of trouble. Why else would they have distributed smokes to soldiers during wartime? It’s a way of growing the customer base for the future. “We figured most of them would survive to return home.” said one former tobacco exec in an interview.

By now the vaping industry has established a customer base that includes millions of young people – exactly the group they swore would never be targeted. Nicotine is highly addictive so many if not most will continue on, or switch to tobacco, for years before they eventually stop (assuming they ever do — many likely will not).

It’s just one more example of the close relationship between certain profit-making businesses and the healthcare problems that, down the line, will plague future generations. Here’s where it begins.