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2018-02-13 / News

Getting Hooked: E-cigarettes Marketed to Younger Generation

By Rosie Cunningham

NEW YORK - Lawmakers are pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate electronic cigarettes after releasing a report Monday that accused companies of using candy-flavored products and social media advertising to try to hook young users.

The report, which looked at seven e-cigarette companies, found that the companies sponsored or provided free samples at more than 300 events during 2012 and 2013, many of which attracted young people, such as rock concerts.

Companies showed television and radio advertisements during events that have a large viewership of minors, like the Super Bowl. Several companies are also marketing flavored ecigarettes, like cherry crush and chocolate treat, which the report found could appeal to children.

“We have seen enough tobacco marketing,” stated Riley Mance, a seventh grade student at Cherry Valley-Springfield. “The more tobacco marketing kids see, the more likely they are to smoke. Twenty-nine New Yorkers under the age of 18 become new daily smokers every day. We need to make changes so we can build tobacco free generations.”

And what about the indirect advertising? As we get older, our advertising defense mechanism (our natural spam-filter for ads) becomes stronger and stronger, and that’s why companies target kids as soon as they become conscious about their social environment. Maybe even before that. Making children become your loyal customers is a business success that will last for a long, long time, even when they grow up.

The results of research that was done in 1944 in the U.S. and repeated in 1964, both times said that the grown-up research subjects used at least 23% of the products that they used when they were kids. Products that are most likely to become a habit for children are ketchup, mayonnaise, toothpaste, coffee, pain relief pills, soap, perfume, makeup products, beer and cigarettes.

Tobacco companies spend over 10.5 billion U.S. dollars a year for marketing. Simple math says approximately 1 million dollars per hour is spent to market products that are responsible for the death of about 1 in 10 adults worldwide every year. The biggest problem is not how much money tobacco companies spend on advertising to children, though. The biggest problem is the way they are trying to reach those kids - colorful advertising, friendly, sweet animals and as mentioned above, creating flavors like bubble gum e-cigarettes, clearly geared towards children.

Results from the research of Tobacco Free Network and the American Cancer Society in Central New York said that: 90 percent of stores featured tobacco product displays behind the cash register; 30 percent of tobacco ads appeared near toys or candies; tobacco ads were found inside 68 percent of stores; 15 percent of stores selling tobacco were located within 1,000 feet of school.

E-cigarettes look like traditional cigarettes, but work by heating liquid nicotine into an aerosol rather than burning tobacco. The FDA regulates the sale and marketing of tobacco products such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco but has not yet released a rule governing electronic cigarettes.

According to the New York State Department of Health the amount of underage children who use e-cigarette doubled from 2014 to 2016. Among middle school students, the rate increased from 6.0 percent to 14.1 percent and among high school students, the amount increased from 21.6 percent to 43.8 percent.

E-cigarette use among youth is a major public health concern. It is well established that nicotine is addictive and has lasting consequences for youth brain development including impaired cognitive functioning and the development of addiction pathways in the brain. Almost all e-cigarette products sold in convenience stores and similar retail outlets contain nicotine. With or without nicotine, e-cigarettes are not hazard-free and the inhaled emission may contain heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and other toxic chemicals.

“Marketing, from the placement of advertising and the images, as well as flavoring, is completely geared towards the younger generation,” said Deyanira Cisneros, Community Engagement Coordinator for Reality Check Advancing Tobacco Free Communities.

“Most adult smokers say they tried smoking as an adolescent,” according to Program Director for Reality Check Linda Wegner. “Stores poplar among adolescents contain about three times more tobacco products and marketing materials than other stores in the same community.”

The average New York state smoker is 13 years old.

According to the surgeon general, advertising and promotional activities by tobacco companies have been shown to cause the onset and continuation of smoking among adolescents and young adults.

When it comes down to it, ecigarettes is a maneuver which was manipulated by tobacco companies for individuals to “smoke” with rose colored glasses on.

“I don’t think the children realize that when they smoke an e-cigarette - the consequences,” said Cisneros. “Because it does not come from a pack and it does not require a lighter, they believe it’s not truly smoking cigarettes.”

Wegner said the maneuver has created a problem in and of itself.

“We have found that many individuals who were already smokers tried to use the e-cigarettes to quit smoking,” she said. “Now, many are using both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes.”

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