FDA Asks, Are Vaping Ads Targeting Teens?
It wasn’t all that long ago that smoking an electronic cigarette was considered a health-friendly choice for smokers.
And while that particular demographic may still get benefits from vaping smokeless tobacco, there’s been an alarming rise in the use of vapes by teenagers and other never-before-smokers. A recent survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrated that 15 percent of Americans over 18 years old never smoked before vaping.
What does this mean? Are cigarettes simply passe in today’s digital world? Or is there more behind the trend?
Making a Customer for Life
In April, the FDA cracked down on the vaping industry, along with sting operations of gas stations, convenience stores and online shops where e-cigarettes were sold. Ultimately, it issued 40 warning letters to these merchants for selling vapes to people under 21 years of age.
The problem doesn’t stop at the gas station check-out line, though. Among manufacturers, there seem to be no limits to what they will do to sell their products. Take, for example, start-up PAX Labs. Its e-cigarette, Juul, went on sale in June 2015 and were very quickly adopted by teens across the country. Juuls were being #humblebragged about on social media, and shortly became a verb in their own right.
In just three short years, Juul has grabbed control of 72 percent of the e-cigarette market, according to Nielsen data reported by The New York Times. A National Institute of Drug Abuse report specifically looking at drug use among teens showed alarming amounts of vaping within the population. Nineteen percent of high school seniors, 16 percent of sophomores and eight percent of eighth graders vape regularly.
Where Things are Today
The FDA issued a statement shortly after the crackdown, naming Juul, along with two other e-cigarette manufacturers, as companies actively marketing to children despite the known vaping health risks and potential for life-long addiction.
“The nicotine in these products can rewire an adolescent’s brain, leading to years of addiction,” Dr. Gottlieb wrote. And although e-cigarettes “may offer a potentially lower risk alternative for individual adult smokers,… the viability of these products is severely undermined if those products entice youth to start using tobacco and nicotine.”
New requirements on the e-cigarette industry may help to curb the rising level of addiction among teens, but there’s likely a fight stirring. Juul doesn’t want to go back to being a tiny fish in a big tobacco-filled pond, and without its teenage base that may be the end result.