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Youth Exposure to E-Cigarette Ads On the Rise

There's been a drastic increase in e-cigarette ad exposure among kids, but the FDA has yet to do anything about it.

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By Victoria Kim

06/04/14

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Exposure to television ads hawking e-cigarettes among adolescents and young adults has increased dramatically, much to the dismay of public health advocates.

The study, published by the journal Pediatrics, analyzed Nielsen television audience measurement data, and found that between 2011 and 2013 exposure to e-cigarette TV ads increased by 256 percent among adolescents ages 12 to 17, and by 321 percent among young adults ages 18 to 24.

The blu eCigs brand accounted for almost 82 percent of nationally aired e-cigarette ads viewed by adolescents, though the company said in a statement that it has “proactively set limitations on when and where blu eCigs can be marketed in an effort to minimize any potential exposure to minors.”

“The tobacco industry and e-cigarette industry say that they are not advertising products to youth, but they are advertising products on a medium which is the broadest based medium in the country,” said Jennifer Duke, lead author of the study and a public health researcher at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Traditional cigarette ads have been banned from television since 1971. “It’s particularly disturbing precisely because Congress removed cigarette advertising from television because of the unique impact TV advertising has on young people,” said Matthew Meyers, president of the advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning the sale of currently unregulated tobacco products to minors, which include e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and hookahs. The rule would also require disclosure of ingredients, federal approval, and warning labels, with no mention of restrictions on marketing and advertising.

“When e-cigarette manufacturers say they don’t market to minors, it’s deja vu all over again,” said Meyers. “This study demonstrates the importance of FDA moving rapidly and decisively to protect our nation’s children.”

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