Is Pfizer behind the My First Vape meme?

Is the fake baby toy created by Adam Padilla harmless fun or something more serious?


Is the social media meme “My First Vape” just a twisted joke? Or is it a real piece of anti-e-cig propaganda, meant to damage the image of vaping even more than it already is?

Friday it showed up on Twitter and Facebook. By Saturday, it was beginning to spread. On Sunday, it was everywhere, and vapers were discussing it as though it might be a real problem. By Sunday night, the original tweet of the meme had about 150 retweets, which is okay, but hardly a viral sensation.

The creator of the meme is Adam Padilla, co-founder of BrandFire, a Manhattan marketing and advertising consulting firm. Padilla’s own website describes him as, “Part brand strategist, part creative director, and part disruptive social media personality, Adam’s handiwork is truly embedded in today’s popular culture.” Sounds like a typically modest New York ad exec.

Several vapers independently discovered that the company does some work for pharma giant Pfizer, known as the seller of quit-smoking med Chantix. Pfizer donates a lot of money to organizations that work hard to discredit and restrict vaping products.

So is Adam Padilla helping out his BrandFire clients by dripping a few more drops of poison into the well of public debate over vaping and tobacco harm reduction? Probably not.

Padilla has a history of creating fake ads — at least one of which used a children’s toy in much the same way as My First Vape. His Fisher-Price Happy Hour Playset post from last December went viral, and got him a lot of press.

Of course, Padilla claimed the hoax had a higher purpose — to warn about the danger of fake news. “It goes to show the power of the internet to take a story viral,” he told Mashable. “The right mix of pop culture and realism, with a bit of technical skill can really send something around the world pretty quickly.”

It looks like he’s trying to recreate the success of the kiddie bar with the “vape-shaped bubble toy.” And why not? Don’t all one-hit wonders try to repeat the formula of their greatest success?

Jim McDonald

I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.

  • petewrigley

    How seriously you’re taking this gag is funnier than the gag itself. Lol

    • Jim McDonald

      I’m not taking it seriously. But a lot of other people are.

      • I’ll just be blunt here

        like who? 80 year old grandmas on facebook?

        • Noctap0d

          No, for real. A friend (of my age) just post it on my wall on Facebook xD

          • Dar is late…normal

            Who would take such a thing seriously….

          • Noctap0d

            Normies 🙁

        • Jim McDonald

          I don’t mean people believe the product is real. But many vapers think the connection between the meme creator and Pfizer may be responsible for the meme.

  • LVD

    “…meant to damage the image of vaping even more than it already is” or “…meant to damage the image of tobacco control in the vaping debate even more” : only the hysterical and paranoid reactions of vapers or TC can achieve that.

  • Rocky Piacentino

    Dude! You can disagree with the tweet, but to somehow magically link it back to Pfizer is just plain horse crap. Looks like you are targeting Big Pharma as clickbait. Big Pharma has lots of bad crap that they have done to vaping over the years without having to create new crap out of thin air. You’re just as bad as the anti-vapers spreading lies and misinformation. Shameful.

    • Jim McDonald

      I like that you wrote the reply without first reading the article. I DIDN’T link it to Pfizer; I just wrote about the people who have.