Hollywood and the tobacco industry used to be close friends, but public pressure has mostly stigmatized on-screen smoking. Now here comes a similar trend: vaping.
Never heard of vaping? It's the preferred term for using an electronic cigarette, a relatively recent invention that produces a steam-like nicotine vapor. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, may or may not be a healthful alternative to regular "analog" cigarettes - few studies on them exist. Nevertheless, they're becoming the entertainment industry's new habit.
In the new Sony Pictures thriller "The Tourist," the e-cig makes its most high-profile appearance yet, between the fingers of Johnny Depp. After helpfully explaining the gizmo to his co-star Angelina Jolie, Depp puffs away on a train and even over dinner at a restaurant. These scenes are likely to make today's ostracized smokers green with envy (which may be the point). Depp's character says he's quitting smoking, though many e-cigarette vendors carefully avoid making any cessation claims.
Depp isn't the first celebrity vaper. Leonardo DiCaprio has been spotted puffing an e-cig. Tom Petty told Parade magazine he uses one. And Katherine Heigl essentially proselytized for e-cigs when she vaped away on "Late Show With David Letterman" earlier this year.
The e-cig industry, like Big Tobacco before it, is proactively pushing its product. Blu, one of the most recognizable e-cig brands, managed to place its packs in this year's Grammy gift bags. Gradually, it seems, the general public is getting a message: Vape 'em if you got 'em.