New CDC Study Links E-Cigarette Advertising and Youth Use – White House Must Issue Long-Overdue Rule to Protect Kids

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – As we mark exactly two years today since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposed rule to begin regulating electronic cigarettes, a new study of e-cigarette advertising underscores the urgent need for the White House to issue a final rule – and shows how every day of delay further endangers the health of our children.

The national study, conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published today in the journal Pediatrics, closely examines whether there is an association between e-cigarette advertising and youth use. Its conclusion: “E-cigarette advertisement exposure is associated with current e-cigarette use among students; greater exposure is associated with higher odds of use.” The study is based on data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, a large national survey of middle and high school students.

This study provides further evidence that the irresponsible marketing of e-cigarettes, coupled with a lack of government oversight, is putting our nation’s children at risk. It’s not surprising that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed at the same time that kids are being inundated with marketing for these products.

According to the 2015 National Youth Tobacco Survey released last week, there was a more than ten-fold increase in e-cigarette use among high school students between 2011 and 2015 – from 1.5 percent to 16 percent who reported using e-cigarettes in the past month. The survey found a record-high 3 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2015 – compared to 1.6 million who smoked traditional cigarettes.

Previous studies have found that e-cigarette marketing expenditures rose from $6.4 million in 2011 to more than $115 million in 2014 and, in 2014, nearly 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million young people altogether – saw e-cigarette ads in stores, online, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies. E-cigarette makers have used the same themes and tactics long used to market traditional cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads, and sports and music sponsorships. 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 ineffective age verification allowing easy purchases by young people.

To protect our kids, the White House must promptly issue a strong final rule providing for FDA oversight of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars; the rule should include restrictions on youth-oriented marketing, flavors and Internet sales. It is inexcusable that it has taken so long to get this rule done, as the Administration has repeatedly missed its own deadlines. It has been five years since the FDA first indicated it would seek to regulate all tobacco products (on April 25, 2011). It has now been a full two years since the FDA published the proposed rule on April 25, 2014. And it has been more than six months since the FDA sent the final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review on Oct. 19, 2015, a process that is supposed to take no more than 90 days. On April 23, 2015, the Administration also told Congress it planned to finalize the rule “this summer,” another missed deadline.

In addition, Congress must reject any proposals to weaken the FDA’s authority over tobacco products, including the two provisions approved last week by the House Appropriations Committee as part of the bill that funds the FDA. One provision would block the FDA from implementing any part of its pending rule unless it exempts certain cigars. The second provision would limit FDA review of e-cigarettes and cigars already on the market, including the candy-flavored products that have flooded the market in recent years.

The White House must act now to protect kids from e-cigarettes, cigars and other unregulated tobacco products, and Congress should not get in the way.