Is Samantha Bee a Vaping Hero or Villain?

The comedy star took sarcastic aim at vapers, and left our spokesman on the cutting room floor. But was it really all bad?

Samantha Bee

“Big Tobacco vs. Little Vape”

Samantha Bee took aim at vaping last week, and blasted us with both sarcastic barrels. And though it was brutal in some respects, there were real positives too. And I don’t mean the correspondent French-kissing a vaping dinosaur.

Bee is known for her bitterly ironic take on culture and politics. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, her show on cable channel TBS, is similar to The Daily Show, the Comedy Central program where she worked previously. Any subject that gets her attention should expect to be skinned, gutted, skewered and roasted.

But wait, what was this? The title of the segment, “Big Tobacco vs. Little Vape,” was actually a welcome surprise, preparing the viewer for the idea that vaping isn’t Big Tobacco — itself a fairly novel idea in American media. Additionally, the writers noted that the deeming regulations would wipe out small businesses, leaving the tobacco industry without competition for the vaping market. There was even a mention of the Public Health England studyAll good to see on a popular mainstream TV show, right?

Left on the cutting room floor

Credit for the generally positive narrative probably goes to Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, who had done an extensive filmed interview with Bee’s staff. Although the footage of his interview was completely cut, the points he made apparently found their way into the script. Which may make Greg the real hero here. Without his influence, this might have been a real bloodbath.


Is Samantha Bee a friend or foe?

But while our worst fears weren’t realized, there were cringe-worthy moments aplenty. Vapers at the convention were mostly stereotypical hipster cloud-chasers, in it just for the party. What TV story on vaping would be complete without a roll call of embarrassing e-liquid names? Classy products like Monkey Spunk and Unicorn Puke got mentions. Of course, Jenny McCarthy with a Blu did make the cut.

Vaping was noted as an important part of the “douche-conomy.”

When I first saw this, I convinced myself it was horrid. A friend talked me down. The spirit of the piece was not anti-vaping, she said, which was nice for a change. And the public recognition that the deeming regulations will kill the independent vaping industry was very welcome.

She was right. And best of all, there was no mention of “marketing to children,” formaldehyde, or popcorn lung. As for the dubstep and the clouds, well…I dunno. Do those people represent most vapers? No, but they do exist, and they have as much right to vape as anyone else. The problem was an idiotic promoter inviting a TV crew to his vape event. What could go wrong?

Frankly, this story is probably the best we can hope for — at least until vendors stop selling products wrapped in pornographic candy labels. But those things are our fault. Expecting outside observers to ignore them is just a bridge too far. And putting all that stuff aside, Samantha Bee included more real truth about vaping and the deeming ban than we’ve seen from anyone in the mainstream news media. So if we aren’t thrilled with the coverage, maybe we should at least be grateful. It could have been a whole lot worse.

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.
  • It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. There were some fair points made and some…realities shown. Also, I want to join Philly cheesesteak Entourage.

    • Jim McDonald

      I want to join *your* entourage!

  • LarryD

    I don’t feel it was a fair assessment of vapors as a whole, it did have a few bullet points we want the public to know, showed the cloud chases and the tattooed and black t-shirt crowd as 95% of vapers and not really the image of people with normal jobs and average appearance just trying to stay away from tobacco. But then that really isn’t all that comical so i guess we got about the best we could hope for.

    • Jim McDonald


  • fultronics

    uh… yeah… Samantha who?…

    • Oh, just a comedian and talk show host with a show that airs in the U.S, Canada and Australia with around 500,000 viewers per episode.

  • amelia

    I’ll just out myself as the friend who doesn’t think this is so bad… (because I’m excited that I made the news!)… And I wanted to comment since, now that I’ve watched it again, I actually think it’s great. Glad Greg Conley was able to talk to them. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t get the sense that this was originally meant as a negative piece. (As much I would have assumed this was going to be disastrous in this “political climate” and think vapers need to be SO careful about letting cameras into events – and probably just shouldn’t.) I do recall someone mentioning that there are a few vapers on the show’s crew… Perhaps that’s another reason this ended up being more positive than we might have expected.

    Actually, I find what they’ve done here pretty subversive. The part of vaping culture shown here comes out looking like it always does: Pretty odd. But it sure as hell doesn’t look like anything harmful, like a plot by big tobacco, glamorous, a “re-normalization of smoking” or “kid friendly.”

    Meanwhile, the political thrust is the critique of the FDA – not vaping. And the FDA comes out looking transparently idiotic and pro-tobacco industry. The fact that they did this while poking fun at the silliest and strangest part of vaping – that’s hard to do. And I appreciate that here. Vaping needs that.

    As usual I love the thoughtful analysis you give Jim… so much that you inspired me to respond like I’m in English seminar 😉

    • Jim McDonald

      Haha. All good points, as usual.

  • I’m back, baby!

    I think that is a crazy good piece for vaping. That’s about as positive as we can hope for from a comedy show, or TV in general I think.