America's Youth Seeing More And More Ads For Electronic Cigarettes
June 2, 2014

America’s Youth Seeing More And More Ads For Electronic Cigarettes

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Unlike conventional cigarettes – the advertising for electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, is not currently regulated at the federal level and a new study form RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina found that e-cigarette ads targeting adolescents has risen over 250 percent from 2011 to 2013.

The study also found that e-cigarette ads targeting young adults rose more than 320 percent over that same time frame. Over 80 percent of these ads were for blu eCigs, which is owned by the tobacco company Lorillard.

"If the current trends continue, awareness and use of e-cigarettes will increase among youth and young adults," said study author Jennifer Duke, senior research public health analyst at RTI. "And unfortunately, in the absence of evidence-based public health messages regarding the health risks of e-cigarettes, television advertising is promoting beliefs and behaviors that pose harm to youth and young adults and raise public health concerns."

For the report, RTI researchers examined TV advertising information and viewership ratings for e-cigarette commercials by quarter, year and sponsor across American cable networks. Scientists worked out ad exposure for youth ages 12 to 17 years of age and young adults 18 to 24 years old.

The study revealed that over 75 percent of youth exposure to e-cigarette ads happened on cable networks. The team also discovered that e-cigarette ads popped up on network programs like The Bachelor, Big Brother, and Survivor, which were among the 100 highest-rated youth shows for the 2012-2013 television season.

"E-cigarette companies advertise to a broad TV audience that includes 24 million youth," Duke said. "Given the potential harm of e-cigarettes to youth and their potential as a gateway to using cigarettes and other tobacco products, the FDA needs to regulate the positive images of e cigarettes on television and other venues where youth view advertising and marketing like they do for traditional cigarettes."

Lorillard responded to the RTI report in a statement to Reuters.

“We have proactively set limitations on when and where blu eCigs can be marketed in an effort to minimize any potential exposure to minors, a part of our criteria is to screen all marketing opportunities to ensure that our TV ads only run with media targeting an adult audience of 85 percent or greater,” the company said.

The new report comes as e-cigarette use appears to be growing. According to the report, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, the number of young people reporting e-cigarette use more than doubled – from approximately 3 percent in 2011 to about 7 percent in 2012.

In an accompanying editorial, Emily Duffy and Brian Jenssen from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said the e-cigarette industry needs more oversight.

“There’s really nothing controlling the quality or the safety of these products,” Duffy told Reuters Health. “I think it just makes sense that in any situation when there is a product being marketed that has a potentially addictive or harmful substance, it really makes sense for an organization like the (Food and Drug Administration) to regulate these items.”

In April, the FDA proposed new regulations that would cover e-cigarettes and other previously-unregulated tobacco products. The proposed regulations are currently under a 75-day comment period.