E-cigarette Marketing Linked to Teen Use

Posted 07/13/2016 | By HealthCorps

Researchers believe that the ad campaigns and marketing messages that feature e-cigarettes is fueling use among middle school and high school students. The study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health used data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) looked at different advertising opportunities, that students in middle school and high school experienced, including those at retail settings, on the internet, in print, on television, and in movies. A total of 22,007 middle and high school students were involved in the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Among those studied, 20 percent had tried e-cigarettes before and nine percent were current users.

Among the 20 percent who had a past use of e-cigarettes, 16 percent were more likely to have been exposed to an e-cigarette ad either in print, a retail setting, on the internet or TV, or had seen use of the device in movies, compared to youth who had not tried e-cigarettes. Among current users of e-cigarettes, 22 percent were likely to have had an exposure to some kind of marketing message compared to non-users. Half of the students did report seeing e-cigarette ads most commonly in retail settings.

One other important finding: With each additional exposure to an ad, students’ odds of using e-cigarettes grew exponentially.

The researchers point to the fact that just walking into a convenience store means you are literally going to see a “wall of tobacco ads.” E-cigarettes seem to be following that same ad formula. E-cigarette companies also have a huge presence online. The researchers also offered that currently e-cigarettes are following the cigarette model of not posting any warnings on the packages. They will likely wait until science and the public health sector mandate those warnings. Flavored e-cigarettes also are extremely popular among young teens.

Spending on e-cigarette marketing tripled between the years 2011 – 2012, going from $6.4 million to $18.3 million, and expenditures in 2013 exceeded 2012. Expectations are that the trajectory of ad expenditures will continue to rise.

Right now the researchers are falling short of directly implicating e-cigarette ad campaigns for the uptick in use among middle and high school students. Longitudinal studies are underway at Texas TCORS – Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science on Youth & Young Adults – to further assess and identify whether or not this strong link exists. These longitudinal studies will last several years and examine how marketing messages from the makers of e-cigarettes affect teens in Texas. They also plan to do a similar study on college campuses.

In the meantime, it is clear that the health community has concerns about e-cigarette use and it has also been suggested that e-cigarettes may be a gateway to traditional smoking.

Sources: Journal of Adolescent Health

Also consider reading: The National Institute of Health’s Newest Initiative Combats Teen Smoking

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