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CDC Study On E-Cigarettes And Teens Suffers From ‘Fatal Flaw,’ Says Expert

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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A study suggesting young people who frequently see e-cigarette adverts are more likely to vape suffers from a “fatal flaw” and in no way causes people to act against their own interests.

That’s the conclusion of the head of the Institute of Economic Affairs’ (IEA) Lifestyle Economics unit, Christopher Snowdon.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined data from a nationwide survey of 22,000 middle school and high school students between the ages of 12 and 18.

According to the study, middle school kids who regularly saw e-cigarette adverts online were almost three times more likely to vape than those who hadn’t. Students in high school who routinely watched online ads were roughly two times more likely to use e-cigarettes.

“E-cigarette ads use many of the same themes used to sell cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products, such as independence, rebellion and sex,” said study author Dr. Tushar Singh of the Office on Smoking and Health at the CDC.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that e-cigarette online vendors are using social network services to market their products – and many online vendor websites are very easy for youth to enter and make purchases,” Singh told Reuters.

But according to Snowdon, the study suffers from a glaring error that makes the results close to meaningless.

“All this study shows – for the umpteenth time – is that people who are interested in a product are more likely to pay attention when it is advertised and are more likely to recall seeing adverts for it in the past,” Snowdon told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

“This is the fatal flaw in so much public health research into advertising. People who use a product are more interested in advertisements for the product than those who don’t. This mundane correlation in no way demonstrates that advertising causes people to act against their preferences,” Snowdon added.

Previous research has found there is no link between e-cigarette advertising and the rapidly growing number of young vapers.

Published in the International Journal Of Drug Policy and released at the end of 2015, one such study also concluded that increasing e-cigarette advertising does not detract from tobacco control efforts and didn’t prevent people from quitting smoking.

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.”

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