The ubiquitous advertisements for e-cigarettes in the media are causing teenagers to become more likely to pick up one of the devices and start vaping, according to a new study.
Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge, reports the CDC announced that students in middle schools and high schools are often inundated with these advertisements. Those young people who often see these ads online, printed in a magazine or on a sign in a store, or on TV, were more likely to have "vaped" within the past 30 days than teens who had not seen them. The more ads they saw, the more they were likely to have smoked an e-cigarette.
This information was collected by the CDC's 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey through self-reporting from 22,000 students. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
The number of teens who vape has risen over the past several years and has even pulled ahead of cigarette smoking. Earlier in April, the CDC said that 3 million young people in middle and high schools were currently using e-cigarettes. That number is 500,000 larger than the year before.
It is true that the number of teens smoking traditional cigarettes is decreasing, but the number of students who have begun vaping has kept the number of teens using tobacco from reducing since 2011.
Scientists have not come to a consensus as to how badly e-cigs can harm those who use them. But the CDC has noted that "any tobacco use by youth is dangerous for their health."
"The unrestricted marketing of e-cigarettes and dramatic increases in their use by youth could reverse decades of progress in preventing tobacco use among youth," Brian King, deputy director at the CDC's smoking division, says in a statement. King says today's e-cig ads "look eerily like the ads" that used to sell cigarettes, leaning on depictions of "sex, independence, and rebellion."
The CDC has no official way to intervene in the reduction of the tobacco and e-cigarette promotions. But the Food and Drug Administration has regulated tobacco for years and is now working toward finalizing a rule that will allow the administration some control over e-cigs. This move could lead to limits on e-cigarette retailers and manufacturers as an effort to minimize sales to teens.
The FDA also hopes to prevent e-cigarette sales through vending machines that are accessible to children and teens. Still, this is not going as far as the CDC would like.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that include an element for heating that changes fruity, sweet, and spicy flavorings and nicotine into a vapor cloud, according to Reuters.
The study found that middle school students regularly watched e-cigarette ads online. These kids were three times more likely to use the devices than those who never saw the promotions. High schoolers were twice as likely to use the devices after frequent exposure to e-cig commercials.
Repeated exposure to e-cig ads on TV and movies resulted in an 80% greater risk that middle school students would use the devices and a 54% higher probability for high school students. Ads in retail store settings were more influential than print or movie advertisements.
William Shadel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND in Pittsburgh, who wasn't involved in the study, said:
"Advertising is thought to make product use seem more normative and acceptable, and to convey the impression that positive outcomes like having fun or feeling attractive will result from use.
"It's possible, then, that exposure to e-cigarette ads promote thoughts that use is more prevalent and that using the product will result in positive outcomes," Shadel added.
Jereal Cawis of Tech Times reports that online vendors of the device are extremely simple for young people to access. The CDC advises that parents keep a watchful eye on what their children see online and talk with their kids about the ways what they see on the internet can affect them.