Millions of Teens Exposed to E-Cigarette Ads: CDC
Unrestricted marketing could upend decades of progress against youth smoking
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Jan. 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- E-cigarette use is soaring among U.S. teenagers, largely because of advertising aimed at their age group, federal health officials said Tuesday.
Seven out of 10 middle school and high school students say they've seen e-cigarette ads in stores, online or in other media, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Not coincidentally, e-cigarette use is increasing rapidly in kids," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.
Frieden said the ads are similar to those "that got a generation of kids hooked on tobacco." They rely on the same themes -- independence, rebellion and sex -- used to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products, he said.
"This is a page right out of the tobacco company playbook," Frieden said.
According to the "Vital Signs" report published online Jan. 5 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more than 13 percent of high school students were using e-cigarettes in 2014 -- more than the number smoking regular cigarettes, and up from 1.5 percent from three years earlier.
In middle schools, nearly 4 percent of students were using e-cigarettes by 2014. Meanwhile, spending on e-cigarette advertising jumped from $6.4 million in 2011 to about $115 million in 2014, the study authors noted.
"E-cigarettes shouldn't be used by kids," Frieden said. They are nicotine-delivery devices that can become addictive and lead to smoking regular cigarettes, he added.
Moreover, "there is increasing evidence that nicotine may cause long-term damage to the developing brain," Frieden said. "It may change the wiring of the brain in ways that may be permanent."
Noting that tobacco advertising has been shown to prompt some kids to start smoking, the researchers said unrestricted marketing of e-cigarettes could upend the progress made over decades to prevent kids from smoking.
For the report, CDC researcher Dr. Tushar Singh and colleagues used data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The investigators found that about 69 percent of middle and high school students see e-cigarettes ads from one or more media sources. More than half see ads in retail stores, while about 40 percent see them online. About 36 percent see the ads on TV or at the movies, and around 30 percent spot them in newspapers and magazines.