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Editorial: Snuff out e-cigarettes ads aimed at kids

Vaping among youth rises as e-cigarette advertising grows, says Centers for Disease Control
Vaping among youth rises as e-cigarette advertising grows, says Centers for Disease Control

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As the dollars spent on electronic cigarette advertising have grown over the years, so too has “vaping” by the nation’s youth.

Nearly 7 in 10 middle and high school students – or more than 18 million young people – are being exposed to e-cigarette advertising, including in retail stores and online, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released this week indicates.

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Meanwhile, e-cigarette use is rising among the same group. The cigarette hoisted by the once-iconic Marlboro Man (including one who eventually died of lung cancer) apparently holds less allure for teens than the electronic cigarettes advertised at one point by celebrity Jenny McCarthy.

E-cigarettes surpassed conventional cigarettes as the top smoking choice among teens in 2014. In that year, just over 13 percent of high school students and nearly 4 percent of middle school students had puffed on an e-cigarette within a month of being surveyed, another CDC study indicated.

This is worrisome as many e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is addictive and can harm brain development in adolescents, according to the CDC. Some experts warn that teens lured into e-cigarette use, based on such flavors as “gummy bear” and “cotton candy,’’ could advance to conventional cigarettes.

We’d like to see fuller research on e-cigarettes, but anti-smoking advocates warn that such work is clouded at the moment by the lack of regulation of what e-cigarettes can contain and must disclose in their packaging.

Given all that, while the verdict is out on e-cigarettes, calls to impose the same youth-targeted advertising and marketing restrictions on e-cigarettes as those now faced by conventional cigarettes seem prudent. The American Cancer Society, the Respiratory Health Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids all endorse such a move.

Such action would go even further than the rules the Federal Drug Administration has proposed, but has yet to institute, for the e-cigarette industry. But with electronic cigarette use tripling among teens between 2013 and 2014, putting limits on “vaping” ads aimed at teens is a smart move right now.

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