E-Cigarette TV Ads Can Make Teens More Likely To Smoke

TV advertisements increase the likelihood that a teen will try e-cigarettes, according to a new study.

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Ever see a fast food commercial and immediately crave a cheeseburger and fries? That's the power of advertisements. Fatty foods aren't the only unhealthy habit being promoted on our TV screens. Recent research shows that teens who see ads for medical marijuana are two times more likely to smoke than their peers. Another study found that adolescents who watch movies that showcase heavy drinking are more likely to binge-drink. Tying into this pattern, a new report shows that kids who are exposed to e-cigarette TV advertisements are more likely to smoke e-cigs in the future.

This study from RTI International is the first to prove a direct link between teens being exposed to e-cig ads and the likelihood of future use. The chief scientist, Matthew Farrelly, Ph.D., explains in a press release:

Nicotine is highly addictive, and many questions remain about the safety of e-cigarettes. Adolescents in the United States are routinely exposed to e-cigarette advertisements that feature celebrities who tout e-cigarettes as a smarter alternative that you can use virtually anywhere, without the guilt and without affecting the people around you.

Our findings suggest that e-cigarette TV advertisements are successfully convincing adolescent viewers to try the novel products they promote.

These findings are important, considering the rates at which e-cig use is increasing among middle and high schoolers. The numbers tripled in the past year alone, and another recent study shows teens don't fully understand the risks of e-cigs. While they are sometimes considered a safer way to smoke, the phrase "safer" is relative, since there is still plenty of harm that can come from puffing on one of these electronic devices. Even e-cig vapors that are labeled as "nicotine-free" have been found to cause lung damage.

To help get the facts in front of teens, share our February 2015 cover story "E-Cigarettes: Can They Kill You Too?" The article dispels the myths that surround e-cig usage and points out the dangers of these vaping devices.