This week Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper joined 37 other state attorney generals in signing a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes like tobacco. The letter states that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through “cartoon-like advertising” and by using fruit and candy type flavors, much like traditional cigarettes were once marketed to young new smokers. We’re not opposed to limiting access to minors and ensuring overall product safety, but demonizing the electronic cigarette industry in the process is something we can’t support or standy-by.
Some Valid Points to Consider
The letter was correct to point out that there are no federal age restrictions to prevent children from obtaining electronic cigarettes. Although many states have new regulations in-place to restrict sales to minors, we have no problem with a federal law to prevent kids and teens in other states from accessing these devices. Electronic cigarettes are undoubtedly safer than traditional cigarettes and lack virtually all of the harmful chemicals, but they still deliver nicotine and nicotine is highly addictive.
We won’t get into a debate about whether nicotine is dangerous or not – some say it’s harmless like caffeine while others claim that it’s toxic and may have long-term impacts on a user’s health. Either way, children should not have access to any nicotine-producing products – and we strongly support the attorney generals’ request to prevent e-cigarette sales to minors.
Demonizing the Electronic Cigarette Industry
The letter went on to outline the rapid growth of e-cigarettes in the United States and provided a variety of examples of how the industry is targeting youth. Without any advertising restrictions, the letter claims that primetime TV ads are “reaching children” and that these advertisements contributed to the doubling of high school students (under the age of 18) who tried e-cigarettes in 2012.
In addition, the letter claims that the use of “fruit and candy flavors” attracts teenagers, and also pointed out that e-cigarette manufacturers, specifically eJuiceMonkeys.com and Magic Puff
City E-cigarettes, use cartoon-like characters to attract younger users.
E-cigarettes contain fruit and candy flavors such as cherry, chocolate, gummy bear and bubble gum that are appealing to youth. The FDA has banned such flavors from cigarettes and should take the same action regarding e-cigarettes.
Teenagers Are Going to Experiment!
Just last week we posted another article responding to negative reports about the growing use by teens. Although the media portrays teen e-cigarette use as shocking, teenagers have always experimented – think clothing, hair styles, drugs, etc. Should it be any surprise that they’re experimenting with a new and innovative product like e-cigs? Teenagers helped spawn the cell phone and iPod revolution and it should be no surprise that they’re at the forefront of electronic cigarettes. The fact is, teens aren’t the only one’s experimenting with e-cigarettes – adult usage has also doubled over the same period from 2011 to 2012, so who is the e-cig industry really targeting???
The media continues to claim that celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff are being used to attract youth. The fact is, these B-List celebrities came to fame in the 90s – long before most teenagers were even born! And since when don’t adults enjoy tasty flavors like chocolate, bubble gum, cherry and vanilla? Is the alcohol industry also guilty of targeting teenagers? One of the many things that attracts adult users to e-cigarettes is the wide array of flavor choices.
The letter’s claim that e-cigarette manufacturers are using ‘cartoon-like’ characters is also misleading. Of the dozens (probably hundreds!) of e-cig manufacturers, the letter pointed out two virtually unknown companies. There isn’t one major brand that uses cartoon characters in their advertising. How much of an impact are these two examples really having on the rising use among teens? If a major company used these tactics, public scrutiny would surely destroy their reputation.
We’re Not Completely Opposed…
As mentioned, we’re not opposed to restricting access to children, and we’re not opposed to limiting some e-cig advertising either. The biggest problem we have is the blatant mis-characterization of the e-cigarette industry as greedy, unethical corporations specifically targeting children. It’s true that big tobacco used these tactics decades ago, but times have changed and big tobacco companies just entered the e-cig market a few years back. The majority of those involved with the business truly believe that they’re helping people with a safer, healthier alternative to smoking. Adult smokers make up a large enough population that there’s no need to target kids. In addition, the public is well aware of these scrupulous marketing techniques from the past, and even if a company wanted to follow through with a campaign to target children, it just wouldn’t fly in today’s society.
Let’s keep talking about helpful new regulations and quit demonizing the electronic cigarette industry! The majority of us are here because we believe in these products and would never even consider targeting children. The fact is, electronic cigarettes help smokers quit and allow them live healthier and happier lives. Just ask anyone that’s made the switch…