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article imageOp-Ed: E-cigarette adverts extend out to children and teens

By Tim Sandle     Jan 11, 2016 in Health
A new review of the market reach of advertising for electronic cigarettes has found the adverts are hitting school-aged children. This runs contrary to assurances provided by manufacturers of the devices.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a controversial product. To some they represent a means to wean people off traditional tobacco products (and thereby protect their health); to others they are a leap into the unknown, with users inhaling chemicals for which there is little research about the long-term safety. The latter position is the one adopted by the World Health Organization, whereas the former is a new policy by Public Health England, as part of a health promotion campaign to encourage smokers to quit.
Another component of the debate concerns the take-up of vaping. Are e-cigarettes designed and marketed only to encourage smokers to switch to something that is, in all probability, safer? Or are e-cigarettes being additionally marketed at those who have never smoked anything before? With this category are teenagers.
A trend within the industry is for companies that have traditionally produced cigarettes to diversify into producing e-cigarettes, keeping the nicotine fix. Many of these e-cigarettes are flavoured and many of the flavors resemble alcopops: sweet and sickly, such as bubble-gum flavour. Some might argue that it is in the interest of these companies to appeal to the next generation, in order to maintain sales. The manufacturers deny this.
Whatever the motivations, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found 70 percent of middle and high school students (some 18 million young people) are exposed to e-cigarette advertising. This is via displays in stores, on-line, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies.
The CDC notes that the styles of adverts use themes that have been traditionally used to market cigarettes and which are designed to appeal to young people. This includes themes like “independence, rebellion, and sex.” Between 2011 and 2014, e-cigarette sales to high school students has soared from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent. This is a faster rate than seen with tobacco products, which had been in decline — a clear sign that the marketing is working.
This has led CDC Director Tom Frieden to declare: “The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes.”
This is an important subject. E-cigarettes are not safe, especially for the young. Nicotine is an addictive drug. It can affect developing brains and it can be a stepping stone to the use of tobacco products. Moreover, there is the issue of the chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes and the delivery mechanisms, for which research is on-going.
It would seem that the marketing tactics of the companies that manufacture e-cigarettes, in the U.S. and elsewhere, are inappropriate and there are insufficient safeguards to protect young people for the allure of the ‘next big thing.’ Smoking, in any form, just ain't cool.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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