It’s widely known that cigarettes are illegal to advertise on TV and radio. Electronic cigarettes have not come under the same regulatory scrutiny. The FDA currently does not regulate the advertising of e-cigarettes, and the e-cig companies are jumping on the opportunity before regulators come down on them. The effect of these companies’ manipulation is an overwhelming marketing campaign that is reaching underage youths by the millions.

“Without thorough studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a product like electronic cigarettes, consumers are essentially being used as the industry’s laboratory subjects with no safeguards for their protection. Given the allure of these products for teenagers, that is totally unacceptable. The one thing we know for sure: they deliver nicotine, which has addicted more people than all other drugs combined,” commented Robert Loehr, a partner with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of personal injury and product liability litigation. “The FDA has published an advisory on the issue to educate the public.”

The FDA’s advisory on e-cigarettes highlights that there are many facts about the products that are still simply unknown by the public. These unknowns include:

  • “the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended,
  • how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
  • whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”

The FDA has also expressed concern that it isn’t known whether e-cigarette use may lead young people to try other tobacco products. The government watchdog’s concerns, however, haven’t slowed down an industry that sees a gap and a chance to get while the getting is good.

A new study from the journal Pediatrics found that “E-cigarette companies currently advertise their products to a broad audience that includes 24 million youth.” Additionally, the study found that there has been a dramatic increase in “young adult television exposure between 2011 and 2013…”.

While it is unknown if this rapid expansion in advertising will lead to more users for the manufacturers, it is clear that the companies hope it will. While the FDA is playing catch up, it’s betting that it can get some people through its door.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow him on Twitter @Joshual33.