In the last several years, advertising for e-cigarettes has spiked. And since the product is not yet regulated in the same way as conventional cigarettes, that means some particularly impressionable populations are being targeted: young people.
Marketing has increased during programming that caters to adolescents and young adults, according to a new report published in the journal Pediatrics shows—something that has had activists and lawmaker up in arms for some time.
Advertising exposure for e-cigarettes increased 256% for young people ages 12 to 17 from 2011 to 2013. During the same period, exposure for young adults ages 18 to 24 spiked 321%. Over 75% of this advertising was shown on TV networks that cater to these age groups including AMC, Country Music Television, Comedy Central, WGN America, TV Land, and VH1. Over 80% of these ads were for the e-cigarette brand, blu eCigs.
Specifically, the researchers report advertising was present on the top rated shows, “The Bachelor,” “Big Brother,” and “Survivor.” More than 80% of the advertisements were for a single brand, blu eCigs.
Also troubling is the fact that the study authors noted a lack of public health messaging against e-cigarettes. This off-balance poses health risks, they propose.
There is still much we don't know about the safety of e-cigs, or about how well they work to help people quit (see our recent 5 sketchy things we still don't know about e-cigs), but recent reports have shown they produce carcinogens, and another recent report found they had only a modest impact on helping highly motivated people to quit.
The FDA recently announced the agency is expanding its jurisdiction to cover e-cigarettes (which thrilled the makers of such devices, as we reported). It proposed a first-time ban on their sale to minors and a requirement for health warnings on products nationwide. However, at the current time, advertising for e-cigs are not regulated like conventional cigarettes.