CDC: E-Cigarette Companies Targeting Teens Through Advertising

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just conducted the annual National Youth Tobacco Survey and discovered that e-cigarettes are being heavily marketed to American teens.

The study, which was released Tuesday, concluded that seven out of 10 middle and high school students are being reached by e-cigarette companies through advertising. The concepts and themes being used by the companies mirror those used in cigarette advertising in the past. The CDC report stated:

E-cigarette ads use many of the same themes — independence, rebellion, and sex — used to sell cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products.

Right now, there aren’t a lot of regulations dictating how e-cigarettes can or can’t be marketed. For example, e-cigarette producers can advertise on TV, which traditional cigarette manufacturers haven’t been able to do since laws were passed to prevent exactly those practices four decades ago. According to CDC Director Tom Frieden,

The e-cigarette advertising we’re seeing is like the old-time Wild West…No rules, no regulations and heavy spending advertising the products.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on finalizing rules to govern sales to minors–it first proposed them in April of 2014, but they haven’t gone into place yet.

At the same time that more American teens and pre-teens are seeing e-cigarette ads, their use of e-cigarettes is also steadily climbing. More U.S. teenagers are using e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes–13.4 percent reported e-cigarette use in 2014, but only 9.2 percent reported using traditional cigarettes. While e-cigarettes are believed to be less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, there’s a pretty serious concern that they could become a gateway to traditional cigarette use for young people. A study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2015 concluded that freshmen in high school who used e-cigarettes were 2.5 times more likely to try traditional cigarettes down the road.

This news from the CDC comes at a time when many parts of the United States are trying even harder to keep young people away from cigarettes. For example, the state of Hawaii just made history by becoming the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21. Yet some serious work needs to be done if e-cigarettes are also going to be kept from teenagers.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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