There has been a fashion flurry of vampires and werewolves in the popular media in recent times. But what I had not realised is that quietly, but rapidly, our marketing world has been invaded by a crowd of glowing zombies.
Now, with announcements by some of the world's biggest companies, these zombies may be about to burst back onto our advertising screens. Yes, it's amazing. The cigarette is alive and smoking and back from the dead.
Smoking seemed to have the stake through its heart over the past three decades. Not dead but ever in decline as its dwindling slaves huddled in lanes and doorways, holding packs with pictures of grotesque diseases. Meanwhile "Big Tobacco" was cut down by million-dollar lawsuits around the world. How could even the biggest businesses survive such attacks?
But, particularly in the past year, tobacco companies have started to look very seriously at the once-gimmicky "electronic cigarettes". Originally produced by small start-up companies as smoking substitutes - like patches and chewing gum - a growing number of smokers began to transfer their addiction.
In the United States, Lorillard bought the biggest electronic cigarette company, BluCigs, for some $135 million in 2012. They now claim 40 per cent of the US e-cigarette market.
In Britain, Imperial Tobacco is the world's fourth-largest tobacco baron. Its chief executive, Alison Cooper, also threw its hat in the ring, stating in February that “We’re looking at opportunities and we’re actively developing in that area at the moment”.
British American Tobacco established a company called Nicoventures in 2011 to research e-cigarettes, while R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest tobacco company in the US, launched its own brand, Vuse, a “digital vapour cigarette.”
Next month it will begin marketing in Colorado - the first state in a planned national roll-out. This is where the advertising comes back, in print, TV and direct mail. Being Colorado, will they put a cowboy on a horse, with a cigarette in his mouth? Sounds familiar.
The cigarette itself is roughly 60 per cent battery, a small container of nicotine or other liquid, a heated atomiser pump. All within a cigarette-sized tube. Put it to your lips and draw: the liquid is vaporised and heated, forms a smoky mist which you suck in and then blow out in a plume just like Bette Davis used to do.
Some doctors and researchers believe it is safe - certainly considerably safer than normal cigarettes. The TGA and AMA are not so sure.
However, perhaps if you use them not to stop smoking, but as a different way to smoke with no medical intention, does that make them permissible? While the regulators and health authorities ponder the question, the retailers are hopping in quick.
The tobacco chain Cignall reports doing brisk business with a range of e-cigarettes. A number of different starter kits are available, they price around $10 per unit - which gives you the equivalent of 40 cigarettes.
Supporters claim to have reduced their smoking bills to a quarter of what they paid, and with no complaints from spouses or co-workers about ash, smell and soggy butts.
Will cigarettes return in their plastic disguise? Well it's not easy to keep a zombie dead.