Study: E-Cigarette Advertising Does Not Increase Appeal Of Tobacco To Children

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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E-cigarette advertising appears to have no impact on increasing the appeal of regular cigarettes to children, according to a new study from the University of Cambridge.

Anti-tobacco activists fear glamorous e-cigarette advertising will increase the number of young vapers who will then go on to take up smoking.

These claims are bitterly disputed by e-cigarette advocates who argue there is no evidence of this actually taking place.

Some public health groups like the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education have even claimed e-cigarettes are contributing to the “renormalization of other tobacco products.” But these fears have little ground in fact, according to the latest data.

The Cambridge study examined 471 English school children between the ages of 11-16, to see how attracted they were to smoking after being shown a series of e-cigarette advertisements.

The children were shown ads featuring both flavored and non-flavored e-cigarettes. “Exposure to either set of adverts did not increase the appeal of tobacco smoking, the appeal of using e-cigarettes, or susceptibility to tobacco smoking,” the study found.

The children continued to view tobacco cigarettes as extremely harmful. Out of the two adverts shown, the one featuring flavored e-cigarettes was seen as the more attractive.

“Exposure to adverts for e-cigarettes does not seem to increase the appeal of tobacco smoking in children,” the study concluded.

Not only is there sparse evidence that e-cigarette advertising is increasing the appeal of regular cigarettes, but the claim that e-cigarettes will induce higher youth smoking rates is equally unfounded.

Public health activists have argued the nicotine in e-cigarettes will lure young vapers to take-up the real thing. But recently-released data from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) blew a hole in this hypothesis. According to NIDA, more than 60 percent of 15- to 18-year-olds vaped just flavorings with zero nicotine last time they used an e-cigarette. Only 20 percent said they used e-cigarettes containing nicotine.

Furthermore, data released in April shows regular smoking continues to fall among high school students, with 9.2 percent of students saying they smoked a cigarette in the last month — a fall of 3.5 percent since 2013. Over the same time period, students who reported using e-cigarettes jumped from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent.

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Guy Bentley