E-Cigarette Marketing Continues to Mirror Cigarette Marketing

June 17, 2015

Teen use of electronic cigarettes has skyrocketed, with the most recent surveys showing that e-cigarette use now exceeds cigarette smoking among U.S. youth.

It's not surprising. E-cigarette manufacturers continue to use marketing tactics that come right out of Big Tobacco's playbook for promoting regular cigarettes to kids. Their tactics include slick magazine ads, sponsorship of concerts and auto races, celebrity endorsements and sweet, colorful flavors.

Here are just a few recent examples:

  • In a four-page, wrap-around ad, blu e-cigarettes recently sponsored Philadelphia Weekly’s 'Smokin' Philadelphia Summer Concert Calendar.' The ad associated blu e-cigarettes with musicians popular with kids, including Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. Cigarette brands are no longer allowed to sponsor sports and entertainment events, but e-cigarette brands still do.

  • VaporNation.com, an online e-cigarette store, ran an ad in the June 4 issue of Rolling Stone magazine for an e-cigarette brand called KandyPens. The brand name linking e-cigarettes to candy was bad enough, but the ad also associated e-cigarette use with youth activities such as studying and band practice.

  • Magazine ads for blu continue to feature actor Stephen Dorff and appear in magazines with high teen readership, including Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated. These ads echo the tobacco industry's long history of using celebrities to market their products.

These youth-oriented cigarette ads are nothing new. As we have documented, e-cigarette makers have frequently copied the slick tactics of cigarette companies. One company went so far as to use Santa Claus on an e-cigarette billboard. And blu placed an ad in the 2014 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, with the blu logo right in the middle of a skimpy bikini.

With marketing like this, it’s no wonder youth e-cigarette use is on the rise. According to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014 (from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014) and surpassed use of regular cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration must quickly finalize its proposed rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and stop the marketing and sale of these products to kids. Without FDA oversight, the irresponsible marketing of e-cigarettes threatens our nation’s kids and health.