Is Pfizer Behind the My First Vape Meme?

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

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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
Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy