While the popularity of cigarettes is declining among teenagers, the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes has created a new type of smoke for high schoolers to get hooked on. Vape companies have now started to take advantage of this, using scholarships to target this age group, advertising essay competitions, creating an elaborate business scheme that manipulates students.
These enterprises are hoping to land their company names on college websites. Students see these vaping companies listed under financial aid and think the school endorses the scholarships and vaping.
According to Associated Press, students applying for many of these scholarships must write an essay on whether vaping is a good alternative to smoking. The purpose behind these topics, according to companies such as Smoketastic and Davinci Vaporizer, is to keep teenagers away from tobacco. This process ignores that the long-term effects of vaping have yet to be determined.
Although, it might seem that these companies are helping kids with their college expenses, it is inappropriate for them to be offering scholarships in the first place. It is also unappealing for students to be taking money from these kinds of corporations who have ulterior motives such as using scholarships to advertise, gaining more business and profit.
“They’re trying to use youth as their marketing surrogates,” said Gregg Haifley, director of federal relations for the American Cancer Society’s lobbying arm in Washington. “They can gussy it up any way they want, try to put lipstick on that pig, but this is about marketing.”
The company Vape Craft, however, seems to want to break away from the negative association of other vape scholarships. Its essay topics aren’t about vaping, tobacco or any related subjects. Some of their topics involve writing about a students’ major or their hero. Additionally, their website specifically says that this scholarship is in no way trying to promote their products or brand.
Despite this, its business website is placed on college websites and hundreds of teenagers will spread the word about this opportunity. The company also has refused to release the names of past winners, only stating the college they are attending.
No matter how you look at it, vaping companies offering scholarships is just another way for these corporations to promote their brand. This could lead to alcohol companies or marijuana sellers releasing scholarship competitions as well. Where does it end?
These companies should not be targeting young adults at all, and should not be granted the platform to do so. These franchises can claim that they are only doing to benefit students, but they gain free advertising, connecting vaping companies with the prestige of universities.