From Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” to Brad Pitt in “Fight Club” and Denzel Washington in “Training Day,” cigarettes have been used to show a character is tough, rebellious, cool and more.For years on the silver screen, the sign of a tough guy – or a gal with moxie – was a cigarette dangling from the mouth or hand during a car chase, shootout or snappy dialogue.
Today – thanks in part to anti-smoking activists – cigarette use onscreen has become less popular. And on TV – where paid advertisements for tobacco cigarettes have been ban since Congress passed a law in 1970 – rare is the character who lights up. However, electronic cigarettes are showing up more frequently these days. E-cigs take the tobacco – and all the chemicals that come with it – out of smoking and leave just the nicotine and/or flavoring in a vapor that disappears quickly.
E-cig users and proponents say it makes sense that e-cigs are showing up more onscreen. After all, they are appearing more in the hands of former smokers who have grown weary of the stink and harmful smoke from traditional cigarettes.
However, electronic cigarettes are showing up more frequently these days. E-cigs take the tobacco – and all the chemicals that come with it – out of smoking and leave just the nicotine and/or flavoring in a vapor that disappears quickly.
Here’s some examples of e-cigs making their mark onscreen:
1. Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live has been credited since its start in the 1970s with introducing products, sayings and music into the pop culture lexicon. And they have done the same for e-cigs, it seems. In a skit with guest host Daniel Craig, SNL cast member Fred Armisen's character used an e-cig. Also, during a skit featuring a cast member playing President Barack Obama, the faux commander-in-chief puffs on an e-cig.
Use of traditional cigarettes in movies is still fairly common. But e-cigs are increasingly getting their time in the spotlight.
In “The Tourist” – released in 2010 – Johnny Depp introduced a lot of people to e-cigs for the first time. His character used an e-cig on a train. In the scene, when asked why he is smoking in a “no smoking” area, he explains that he isn't smoking at all, but using an e-cig.
In a 2014 film adaption of William Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline,” the main actress, played by Milla Jovovich, smokes an e-cig. Dennis Quaid’s mortician character in “Beneath the Darkness” puffs on an e-cigarette throughout the horror film.
In “Drive Hard,” John Cusack’s character is a frequent vaper and Zac Efron’s character uses an e-cig in the 2014 comedy “Neighbors.”
On the small screen, e-cigs also are playing a supporting role. They have been used by a character on CBS’s “Two Broke Girls” and when actress Katherine Heigl visited “The Late Show with David Letterman,” she brought and shared her e-cig with the now-retired host.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus made headlines at the 2014 Golden Globes by vaping an e-cig during a joke. In the comedy sketch, the “Veep” and former “Seinfeld” star used the device while pretending to be too famous to sit with other TV actors.
On HBO’s second season of “True Detective” and season seven of Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie,” e-cigs also are used.
4. Streaming Media
On Netflix’s acclaimed “House of Cards,” Kevin Spacey’s character in season two chooses an e-cig over his normal tobacco cigarette, which he is trying to quit. His wife, played by Robin Wright, calls him out for breaking their agreement to quit smoking, telling him he’s cheating. He responds by pointing out it’s not a tobacco cigarette: “No I'm not. It’s vapor.”
This, of course, is just a few of the times e-cigs have been in the spotlight onscreen. As they continue to grow in popularity among former smokers who are looking for a healthier way to get the caffeine-like boost of nicotine – or just enjoy e-cig flavorings such as cherry, vanilla, coffee, etc. – we will likely continue to see them popping up in pop culture and making their own mark on history.