Marketers of e-cigarettes are reaching nearly 70 per cent (an estimated 18.3 million) of middle and high-school students in the US, according to a study by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the report, e-cigarette sales have grown exponentially, hitting an estimated US$2.5 billion last year. The CDC states e-cigarette advertising expenditures has also increased dramatically, from an estimated $6.4 million in 2011 to an estimated $115 million in 2014.
This increase in e-cigarette marketing has resulted in over two-thirds of U.S. teenagers being exposed to product advertising. The CDC argues this is prompting more teens to use the devices and threatening decades of progress in combating youth tobacco use. In the US e-cigarettes currently don’t face the same advertising restrictions which apply to traditional cigarettes.
Retail stores were the most frequently reported exposure source (54.8 per cent of respondents, or an estimated 14.4 million students), followed by the Internet (39.8 per cent, 10.5 million), TV and movies (36.5 per cent, 9.6 million), and newspapers and magazines (30.4 per cent, 8.0 million). Exposure to e-cigarette advertisements on the Internet and in newspapers and magazines was reported more frequently by females than males.
“It’s the Wild West out there when it comes to e-cigarette advertising,” said Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “It’s no coincidence that as the advertising has skyrocketed, the use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed. This is a problem. Whatever you think about adult use of e-cigarettes, kids should not be using e-cigarettes.”
In response to the CDC’s findings, the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), the industry body representing vapor companies issued a statement. “The CDC’s survey on teen use of e-cigs itself is flawed and provides no evidence that vapor products lead to continued use among minors and raises questions about the data collection methodology. While teens may potentially experiment, it’s vital that parents and guardians talk to their children about not using any age-restricted products.
“The vapor industry always has supported age restrictions on vapor products. These are adult products, sold to adults by adults.”