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CDC: E-Cigarette Companies Ramp Up Ad Spending, Entice Teens

A picture of a man using an e-cigarette.
Teen e-cigarette use has grown with increased advertising expenditures to promote these products.

The number of underage teens who smoke cigarettes has dropped since regulators began imposing stiff advertising restrictions in the 1970s. But a new report from the Centers for Disease Control says the number of young people who say they're exposed to ads for electronic cigarettes has skyrocketed.

Brian King of the CDC says 18 million middle and high school students say they've seen ads for the new technology, most often in convenience stores or online.

"We now have 2.4 million US middle and high school students who currently use these products. And the increases in use that we've seen among youth have corresponded with the marked increases in spending for e-cigarette advertising since 2011."

The CDC report says e-cigarette companies have increased advertising spending by about 95 percent between 2011 and 2014.

This didn't surprise Matthew Farrelly, who directs Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research at RTI International. His own research showed thatpeople who see ads were 50 percent more likely to express an interest in using e-cigarettes in the future, compared to those who did not see ads. 

Farrelly says the products appeal especially to teens.

"I think the flavors, the technology and the advertising glamorizing it, but youth can use e-cigarettes more surreptitiously than conventional cigarettes because the e-cigarettes don't leave a lingering scent like cigarettes do. So I think that could be another factor that makes them popular."

Farrelly  says restricting ads and sales of e-cigarettes in stores and online would contribute to reduced consumption among teens.

[Image credit:]

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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