Now that data indicate 7 out of 10 American youth are routinely exposed to electronic cigarette imagery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling for restrictions on how e-cigarettes are marketed to teens.
“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,” CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a media briefing. “I hope all can agree that kids should not use e-cigarettes.”
Data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Use Survey of 22,007 students in grades 6-12 indicated that 18.3 million youth take in imagery depicting e-cigarette use as desirable. Over half of all respondents reported retail establishments were responsible for their exposure to e-cigarette marketing. Nearly 40% said they were exposed to e-cigarette ads online, with more than a third saying they saw such advertising on television and in movies. A quarter reported seeing e-cigarette ads in print media (MMWR. 2016 Jan 5; 64[Early Release]:1-6).
E-cigarettes deliver nicotine and other additives to users in aerosol form by way of a battery-powered device. Tobacco use in teens has been implicated in thwarting healthy brain development, and to the development of lifelong addictions.
Marketing the electronic nicotine delivery devices to young Americans as expressions of “independence, rebellion, and sex” is no different from the tobacco industry’s past tactics for addicting youth to regular tobacco products, according to a CDC statement. In 2014, the CDC reported e-cigarettes had surpassed conventional cigarette use by U.S. teens, rising from 1.5% to 13.4% in high schoolers and from 0.6% to 3.9% in middle school-aged students between 2011 and 2014. Concurrently, industry spending on e-cigarette marketing exploded from $6.4 million to $115 million, according to a CDC statement.
Fearing a reversal of the progress made over the years in curbing tobacco use among teens, the CDC is calling for tighter controls on how e-cigarettes are sold. Among its suggested strategies are limiting the sale of nicotine-based products only to facilities where youth are not permitted; creating “tobacco-sales-free” zones around schools; banning online sales of e-cigarettes; and requiring age verification for the purchase and delivery acceptance of e-cigarettes or before customers can enter e-cigarette vendors’ websites.
The CDC also is calling upon health care providers to counsel younger patients about the dangers of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, to encourage those who use such products to quit, and to offer assistance with quitting.
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