High school students in the United States are increasingly pulling e-cigarettes amid an aggressive marketing campaign that includes candy-flavored vapors, new research from the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention. In the absence of federal regulations limiting the attractiveness of the electronic cigarette industry to new customers, companies are doing everything they can to attract children: sex, independence, glamor, rebellion. For tobacco critics, this is the new Wild West.
A total of 4.5% of high school students told the CDC that they had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. The number of students smoking e-cigarettes has tripled since 2011. Recently released data has resparked arguments about the increased advertising of unsafe products aimed at adolescents. âConsumption among teens and young adults is increasing along with marketing,â said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco.
Businesses can advertise electronic cigarettes on television, even though cigarette advertisements were banned in 1971. E-cigarette ads increased 256% between 2011 and 2013, and more than three-quarters of teenage exposure to e-cigarette ads occurred on cable channels. AMC was the most broadcast, followed by Country Music Television and Comedy Central, according to a to study published this summer in Pediatrics.
These advertisements and others are not intended for children, said Kristin Noll-Marsh, vice president of the Association of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives. Celebrity mentions tend to come from older, less relevant stars like Stephen Dorff and Jenny McCarthy. âThese aren’t the young, sexy, hip celebrities of today,â Noll-Marsh said. “Which 13 year old boy knows who Stephen Dorff is?”
But critics of the e-cigarette advertising said the sweet flavors were designed to trick teens. “It’s pretty clear to the Lung Association that electronic cotton candy cigarettes are not intended for adults,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association.
Rresearch discovered that vaping is less risky than traditional smoking, but it’s still dangerous – especially for teenagers. All types of nicotine consumption are dangerous for teens because they affect brain development, according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report.
What is not clear is whether e-cigarettes will increase or decrease the use of traditional tobacco products by adolescents. Candy flavors, for example, can keep children from “really” smoking because e-cigarette users get used to the sweet-tasting nicotine, said Michael Siegel, professor at the School of Public Health. Boston University. âThe idea of ââsmoking a Marlboro just doesn’t interest them, and if they try it, it will taste more disgusting than usual,â Siegel said.
The CDC study showed that cigarette consumption was down 14-12.7% since 2013, although a spokesperson told the New York Times this decrease was not numerically significant. âObviously, these fears that e-cigarettes will lead to increased smoking among young people are not manifested in these numbers,â Noll-Marsh said.
The United States Food and Drug Administration is preparing legislation to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, the Washington Post reported, but right now the laws are set at the local level. The American Lung Association, meanwhile, is pushing for the FDA to pass laws restricting ads and banning flavors. But it could take months or even years, Sward said.