Manufacturers are stepping up efforts to market electronic cigarettes to children and teens, says a report released by 11 Democrats in Congress this week. Those efforts include an increasing presence on social media, sponsorship of “youth-oriented events,” and candy and fruit-flavored products, the report says.
The lawmakers called for greater federal regulations of electronic cigarettes, relatively new products that can be sold and advertised more freely than traditional nicotine products. While 28 states currently ban the sales of e-cigarettes to minors, there is no similar federal restriction. According to the report:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette use is growing rapidly. However, these products are currently not subject to federal laws and regulations that apply to traditional cigarettes. For example, federal laws and regulations prohibit traditional cigarettes from being sold to persons younger than 18 years of age, distributed as free samples, advertised on television and radio, and having characterizing candy and fruit flavors that appeal to children. There is no federal ban on the use of such tactics by e-cigarette manufacturers. In the absence of federal regulation, some e-cigarette manufacturers appear to be using marketing tactics similar to those previously used by the tobacco industry to sell their products to minors."
While the products have been widely viewed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes for those who are already addicted, public health research has demonstrated rising rates of e-cigarette use among teens. The report’s release comes a month after a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said e-cigarette use in teens correlates with traditional cigarette use.
Read the report for yourself and see if you agree that these tactics target young people. (One of the findings is that Jenny McCarthy is a spokesperson for one brand, and I’m not sure she’s been relevant to teens since her days hosting “Singled Out” on MTV.) Do your school’s prevention programs address e-cigarettes? Should they?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.