Jan. 5 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – A CDC report released today shows alarming levels of youth exposure to electronic cigarette advertising and underscores why the White House must act now to issue a long-overdue rule providing for FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on marketing, sweet flavors and other tactics that entice kids.
Based on data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the CDC report finds that nearly 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million young people altogether – see e-cigarette advertising in stores, online, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies. It is especially troubling that even the youngest kids surveyed, 6th graders, have extensive exposure to e-cigarette advertising, with half seeing e-cigarette ads in stores and a third seeing such ads on the Internet.
The irresponsible and indiscriminate marketing by the e-cigarette industry, coupled with a complete lack of government oversight, is putting the health of our nation’s kids at risk. It shouldn’t be a surprise that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed when kids are being inundated with marketing for these products.
This marketing works. From 2011 to 2014, past-month e-cigarette use jumped from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students and from 0.6 percent to 3.9 percent among middle school students. Among both age groups, e-cigarette use now exceeds use of regular cigarettes.
Studies have found that e-cigarette marketing expenditures increased from $6.4 million in 2011 to more than $115 million in 2015. While e-cigarette manufacturers claim their marketing is directed at adult smokers, today’s CDC report and other studies show e-cigarette ads are reaching a much broader audience, including millions of kids. E-cigarette makers have used the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerts. E-cigarettes and refill liquids are also available in an assortment of kid-friendly flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy, and they are widely sold online, often with poor age verification.
Above all, this report makes clear that we can’t afford more delays in government oversight of e-cigarettes. It has been nearly five years since the FDA first announced its intention to regulate e-cigarettes, more than 20 months since the FDA issued its proposed rule and more than two months since the FDA sent the final rule to the White House for review. It’s time for the White House to issue a strong final rule and end this unregulated experiment that threatens our kids. Among other things, the final rule should include strong restrictions on youth-oriented marketing, flavors and Internet sales.
If there is to be a public health benefit to e-cigarettes, it will come only if they are effective at helping smokers stop using cigarettes completely and if they are responsibly marketed so they do not re-glamorize tobacco use and attract young people. Effective FDA oversight is critical to achieving these goals.