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Barbara Boxer Demands Study On E-Cigarette Advertising Targeting Children

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Democratic Sen. [crscore]Barbara Boxer[/crscore] is demanding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) expedite its study of e-cigarette advertising to ensure companies aren’t enticing children to take up vaping.

The FTC is waiting for authorization from the White House Office of Management and Budget to go ahead with the study.

“I urge you to expedite the study and ask that you specifically solicit information about marketing tactics that target youth, including online advertising, advertising on social media, behavioral targeting, mobile marketing, and viral videos,” Boxer said in a letter to the FTC Friday.

The e-cigarette industry is to be regulated like tobacco products under the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its controversial “deeming” regulations.

“The actions taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week finalizing the deeming regulations were a huge victory for America’s public health, but it is not enough,” Boxer said. “Now, we must work to ensure that e-cigarette companies stop using false and deceptive advertising to target children.”

The rise of e-cigarette advertising spending reflects the industry’s rapid growth, with ad spending soaring from $6.4 million in 2011 to around $115 million in 2014, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Boxer may have little to fear from the increasing volume of e-cig adverts, with studies suggesting there is no link between a rise in advertising and increasing rate of youth vaping. (RELATED: Study: E-Cigarette Advertising Does Not Increase Appeal Of Tobacco To Children)

A study published in the International Journal Of Drug Policy, released at the end of 2015, concluded 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. (RELATED:Study Contradicts CDC Director: E-Cigarette Ads Are Not Related To Teen Vaping)

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 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 as 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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