E-Cigarette Ads Targeting Youth

E-cigarette advertisements reach nearly 7 in 10 middle and high school students. The ads use many of the same themes – independence, rebellion, and sex – that are used to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. E-cigarettes typically deliver nicotine, which at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use. In 2014, e-cigarettes became the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes.

The CDC analyzed data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey to assess exposure to e-cigarette advertisements among middle and high school students in the US. Four sources were assessed including retail stores, internet, TV and movies, and newspapers and magazines. The findings indicate that among all students, 68.9% (18.3 million students) were exposed to e-cigarette advertisements. Youth exposure to e-cigarette advertisements may be contributing, in part, to increasing experimentation with and use of e-cigarettes among young people in recent years. Multiple approaches are warranted to reduce youth exposure to e-cigarette advertisements, including efforts to reduce youth access to the settings where tobacco products such as e-cigarettes are sold, and regulation of youth-oriented e-cigarette marketing. The approaches have the potential to reduce all forms of tobacco use among youth, including e-cigarettes.

While e-cigarettes have the potential to lead to sustained tobacco use, additionally, advertising for conventional tobacco products has been shown to prompt experimentation as well as increase tobacco product use among youth. More than 80% of adult tobacco users in the United States began using tobacco regularly before age 18. The prevalence of tobacco use is now higher among teenagers and young adults than among other adult populations. However, the prevalence of quitting also is lower among these younger age groups. Studies indicate that most teenaged and young adult smokers want to quit and try to do so, but few succeed. Resources like the California Smokers Helpline offer free help for smokers trying to quit in order for more people to have successful quit attempts. For more information about the California Smokers Helpline, please visit www.nobutts.org.