Ads for candy-flavored e-cigarettes could encourage vaping among school children

January 18, 2016

Advertisements featuring e-cigarettes with flavours such as chocolate and bubble gum are more likely to attract school children to buy and try e-cigarettes than those featuring non-flavoured e-cigarettes, according to new research published in the journal BMJ Tobacco Control.

E-cigarettes are now the most commonly consumed nicotine product amongst children in with strong tobacco control policies. In the USA, the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014 amongst , rising from 4.5% to over 13%, and amongst middle school students increasing from 1% to 4%. These figures are mirrored in England, where e-cigarette use has risen from 5% in 2013 to 8% in 2014 amongst 11-18 year olds.

As e-cigarette use, rises amongst children and adolescents, there are concerns that their use could lead to tobacco smoking, say researchers from the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge. The Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU) is based in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care and funded by the UK Department of Health Policy Research Programme.

E-cigarettes are currently marketed in around 8,000 different flavours. Internal tobacco industry documents show that young people find tobacco products with candy-like flavours more appealing than those without. Candy- and liqueur-flavoured tobacco products were heavily marketed to young people from the 1970s until 2009, when regulations were imposed.

In a study funded by the Department of Health, researchers at Cambridge assigned 598 school children to one of three groups: one group was shown adverts for candy-like flavoured e-cigarettes; a second group adverts for non-flavoured e-cigarettes; and a third, control group, in which the children saw no adverts.

The school children were then asked questions to gauge issues such as the appeal of using e-cigarettes and tobacco smoking (did the children think e-cigarettes or tobacco were 'attractive', 'fun' or 'cool'?), the perceived harm of smoking, how much they liked the ads and how interested they might be in buying and trying e-cigarettes.

The children shown the ads for candy-flavoured e-cigarettes liked these ads more and expressed a greater interest in buying and trying e-cigarettes than their peers. However, showing the ads made no significant difference to the overall appeal of tobacco smoking or of using e-cigarettes - in other words, how attractive, fun or cool they considered the activities.

"We're cautiously optimistic from our results that e-cigarette ads don't make tobacco smoking more attractive, but we're concerned that ads for e-cigarettes with flavours that might appeal to could encourage them to try the products," says Dr Milica Vasiljevic from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge.

Currently across Europe and the USA, marketing and of e-cigarettes is virtually unregulated. For example, in the UK the Committee on Advertising Practice has issued rules for the advertising of e-cigarettes. A key aspect of these rules is that e-cigarette adverts must not be likely to appeal to people under 18, and those who are non-smokers or non-nicotine users as well as not allowing the models in these adverts to appear younger than 25; however, the rules do not provide any explicit prohibitions regarding the advertising of candy-like flavours designed to appeal to children.

The results of the current study support the imminent changes in EU regulations surrounding the marketing of e-cigarettes, but raise questions about the need for further regulation regarding the content of products with high appeal to children. More research is needed to examine both the short- and long-term impact of e-cigarette advertising, as well as the link between e-cigarette use and .

Explore further: Teens and parents agree: Electronic cigarettes need restrictions

More information: Vasiljevic, M, Petrescu, DC, Marteau, TM. Impact of advertisements promoting candy-like flavoured e-cigarettes on appeal of tobacco smoking amongst children: an experimental study. BMJ Tobacco Control; 18 Jan 2016. dx.doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2015-052593

Related Stories

Teens and parents agree: Electronic cigarettes need restrictions

November 16, 2015
As electronic cigarette use skyrockets among youth, even teens agree with parents that what's known as "vaping" needs stricter rules.

New study assesses the impact of exposure to e-cigarette ads on young adults

November 19, 2015
Exposure to e-cigarette advertisements may enhance curiosity and usage among young adults, according to a study published this week in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Health agency takes on advertising for electronic cigarettes (Update)

January 5, 2016
The nation's lead public health agency on Tuesday focused its attack on electronic cigarettes on the issue of advertising, saying too many kids see the ads.

Research shows most children do not regularly use e-cigarettes

June 15, 2015
Children aged 11 to 16 who have never smoked do not regularly use e-cigarettes, according to new Cancer Research UK data being presented today (Friday) at the UK Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Conference  and will be published ...

Why do college-aged young adults use e-cigarettes?

January 12, 2016
Numerous studies have examined the reasons adults use e-cigarettes. But what drives another important group—college-aged young adults—to use them? Turns out, like most things they are known to try, it's for enjoyment.

New rules will help prevent e-cigarette advertisements targeting children

October 13, 2014
From 10th November, new rules published by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) will prevent e-cigarettes advertisements targeting non-smokers including children.

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.