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Study Contradicts CDC Director: E-Cigarette Ads Are Not Related To Teen Vaping

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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There is no link between e-cigarette advertising and the rapidly growing number of young vapers, according to a study published in the International Journal Of Drug Policy.

Released at the end of 2015, the research also concluded that increasing e-cigarette advertising does not detract from tobacco control efforts and didn’t prevent people from quitting smoking.

E-cigarette advertising became a hot topic this week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Jan. 5 showing that seven in 10 middle and high school students had seen e-cigarettes ads.

“It’s no coincidence. Advertising works,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told Fox News. “And when kids see ads — and they see them on the Internet, they see them on TV and in magazines and in stores — they’re more likely to use e-cigarettes. And that’s a problem.”

“The unrestricted marketing of e-cigarettes and dramatic increases in their use by youth could reverse decades of progress in preventing tobacco use among youth,” the CDC said on its website. (RELATED: CDC Admits, No ‘Concrete’ Evidence E-Cigarettes Are Gateway To Smoking)

But the link between e-cigarette ads and the rising numbers of teen vapers is more fiction than fact. Examining young smokers aged 16 and older, the study based in the Netherlands found a dramatic expansion in the number of young people noticing e-cigarette ads between 2013 and 2014.

E-cig ads on television were the most noticed, rising from 6.6 percent in 2013 to 27.4 percent in 2014. In total, the percentage noticing e-cig ads rose from 13.3 percent to 36 percent. Over the same time period, there was a surge in e-cigarette use, but the authors concluded, “the two appear unrelated.”

The research team tracked whether noticing e-cigarette ads was associated with taking up vaping, and said “This association was not significant, including when adjusting for all control variables. Noticing e-cigarette advertisement was similarly not associated with starting current use of e-cigarettes between baseline and follow-up.”

Not only was e-cigarette advertising unrelated to the increasing number of teen vapers, but it didn’t in any way stifle anti-smoking efforts already in place.

“From our results, it does not appear that exposure to e-cigarette advertising is having an adverse impact on disapproval of smoking and smoking cessation among adult smokers.

“We found no evidence to suggest advertising is encouraging smoking, with all trends in the opposite direction.”

The authors claimed in a previous study that they thought the big increase in vaping among young people was attributable to e-cigarette advertising that first hit Dutch TV in 2013. The results of their latest work came something of a surprise for the researchers.

Although the authors hedge their claims with the usual caveats, they do make a strong claim that directly clashes with the CDC’s narrative that e-cigarettes could reverse the progress that has already been made in getting people to quit smoking:

Interpretation of the observed associations needs to be treated with caution, but we can say with some certainty that there was no support for the hypothesis that e-cigarette advertising is undermining tobacco control efforts among adult smokers through decreasing disapproval of smoking, preventing quitting, or promoting relapse.

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