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Study links e-cigarette ads with youth smoking initiation

April 9, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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A recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that young people who have never smoked but were receptive to advertising for e-cigarettes were more likely to try smoking conventional cigarettes a year later.

Researchers analyzed data from 10,989 participants in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, and found that among the 12- to 21-year-old population, those who hadn’t smoked but were receptive to e-cigarette ads were 60% more likely to try smoking cigarettes one year later compared to those who weren’t receptive to the ads. Participants were considered “receptive” to advertising if they reported liking or recognizing images from ads.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, notes restrictions had been placed on advertising for traditional cigarettes because the ads had been found to contribute to the initiation of cigarette smoking among young people. This research suggests a similar effect is being achieved through marketing for other tobacco products, which faces fewer limitations.

“The problem I see with e-cigarettes is the advertising allowed on television. It’s not restricted the same way cigarette advertising is,” says John Pierce, PhD, professor at the University of California, San Diego Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, the study’s lead researcher. “If it was restricted, maybe we wouldn’t get the effects as high as they are and we wouldn’t get the young people starting to smoke cigarettes coming through e-cigarettes. That would tip the balance very much, I think.”

Participants in the study were exposed to ads for conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco products. E-cigarettes had the highest receptivity among all subgroups within the 12-to-21 age range. For those ages 12 to 17, those receptive to the ads presented showed significantly increased susceptibility to using all of the advertised forms of tobacco a year later.


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