E-Cigs on the Airwaves

Electronic cigarette advertising on TV reaches many youth

(RxWiki News) One of the reasons cigarette TV commercials left the airwaves was their market appeal to youth. It's unclear whether that may be the fate of e-cigarettes as well.

A new study found that TV commercials for e-cigarettes are reaching a wide audience of youth.

Most of these commercials air on cable networks and center on one brand.

The health risks of e-cigarettes are less understood than the risks of cigarettes, so it's not clear whether this advertising poses a risk to youth.

"Talk to your kids about the dangers of nicotine."

The study, led by Jennifer Duke, PhD, of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, analyzed e-cigarette marketing on television.

The authors used data from Nielson surveys, which measure what Americans watch and how much they watch using both TV monitors and mailed questionnaires.

The researchers were particularly interested in youth's exposure to e-cigarette advertising.

They found that the amount of e-cigarette advertising that children and teens watched more than tripled (256 percent increase) between 2011 and 2013.

During the same two-year period, exposure to e-cigarette advertising among young adults more than quadrupled (321 percent increase).

The majority of these advertisements were seen on cable networks, which accounted for 76 percent of all e-cigarette advertising on TV.

The cable network airing the most e-cigarette advertising was AMC, followed by Country Music Television, ComedyCentral, WGN America, TV Land and VH1.

Some of the TV programs during which e-cigarette ads appeared, such as The Bachelor, Big Brother and Survivor, were also among the 100 most watched TV shows for youth during 2012-2013.

One e-cigarette brand in particular, blue eCigs, accounted for the vast majority (82 percent) of e-cigarette advertisements.

All other brands — FIN, Starfire, NJOY and other brands — accounted for less than 10 percent each of the advertising.

The national TV watching viewership includes 24 million youth, the authors noted.

"In the absence of evidence-based public health messaging, the current e-cigarette television advertising may be promoting beliefs and behaviors that pose harm to the public health," the authors wrote.

"If current trends in e-cigarette television advertising continue, awareness and use of e-cigarettes are likely to increase among youth and young adults," they wrote.

The study was published June 2 in the journal Pediatrics. The study was funded by the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 2, 2014