FDA Deeming Regulations Released Last Week Fail to Safeguard Young People from Pervasive E-Cigarette Advertising

Release Date:

May 1, 2014

Washington, D.C. – A new report titled Vaporized: E-Cigarettes, Advertising, and Youth by Legacy, examines the recent rise of e-cigarette use among youth, and the entry of the major tobacco companies into the e-cigarette market. Legacy, the nation’s largest public health foundation devoted to achieving a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco, released the report today, amid growing concerns about the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among youth. Legacy’s report provides further evidence for the rapid implementation and expansion of the recently announced deeming regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the proposed regulation would take the very important step of instituting a national minimum age of 18 for the purchase of e-cigarettes, it is essential that the regulation also prohibits marketing of these products to youth, something not included in the proposal.

E-cigarette usage is exploding, with a doubling of e-cigarette use from 2011 to 2012 among middle and high school students and adults (18-34), according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) figures.  If current trends continue, U.S. sales of e-cigarettes are expected to surpass $10 billion by 2017. Spending on advertising has also risen sharply from $5.6 million in 2010 to $82.1 million in 2013 across all media channels. Furthermore, e-cigarette brands now use celebrity endorsements, event sponsorships and advertisements on cable television, print and web media as ways to promote their products.

“In the absence of a clear body of research, the public health community continues to grapple with the promise and the perils of e-cigarette products,” said Legacy’s President and CEO, Robin Koval. “However, one fact remains clear: we remain concerned about the marketing of e-cigarettes and their appeal to young people. The FDA has just exerted its jurisdiction over these products, and this report underscores the need for the FDA to move quickly to finalize the rule restricting their sale to youth, as well as providing key evidence for the need to restrict marketing to youth,” she said. 

The Legacy report combines findings from two studies it recently commissioned to expand the knowledge base regarding e-cigarette advertising and its impact on youth. The first study surveyed teenagers and young adults to learn about their e-cigarette awareness use of e-cigarette products, and advertising awareness. The second study analyzed e-cigarette media expenditure data to better understand whether and how e-cigarette advertising is reaching young people.

Key findings include:

Use and Awareness among Teens and Young Adults:

  • Results indicate that awareness of e-cigarettes among young people is nearly ubiquitous, ranging from 89% for those ages 13-17 to 94% for young adults ages 18-21. 
  • In addition to this extremely high awareness of e-cigarettes, ever-use (whether a product has ever been tried) among these age groups is also high, with 14% of those ages 13-17 and 39% of those ages 18-21 reporting having used e-cigarettes.
  • Results show that, among the major advertising channels, youth awareness of e-cigarette advertisements is highest at retail sites, with 60% of teens ages 13-17 and 69% of young adults ages 18-21 saying they always, most of the time, or some of the time see e-cigarette advertising at convenience stores, supermarkets, or gas stations.

Industry Advertising:

  • Overall, e-cigarette advertisers spent $39 million from June through November 2013, with magazine and national TV accounting for more than three-quarters of dollars spent.
    • Magazines made up the majority of the ad dollars spent ($23 million; 58%)
    • National TV ads were second, accounting for 19% of spending at $7.4 million.
  • From June through November 2013, the blu, NJOY and FIN brands put the most money towards advertising, accounting for 86% of the overall category spend.
    • Far and away, blu spent the most money on paid e-cigarette advertising during this time, accounting for 56% of all e-cigarette ad spending—more than all other brands combined.

Just two weeks ago (April 14), key Senate and House leaders released a similar report concluding that e-cigarette companies are aggressively promoting their products to young people – much like tobacco companies have in the past. The report surveyed nine e-cigarette companies and found that:

  • Many companies are promoting their products through sponsorship of youth-oriented events, and some companies are offering free samples of e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes are available for purchase in stores and online by children and teenagers.
  • Surveyed e-cigarette companies extensively utilize social media and product websites to promote their products.
  • E-cigarette product warning labels lack uniformity and may confuse or mislead consumers.

These two complementary reports on e-cigarettes demonstrate that many of the tactics that have long-been banned or restricted by both the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act are now being utilized to market these emerging products to youth. Legacy’s report adds to the data Congress has already collected – showing that e-cigarette companies are aggressively promoting these products and reaching our nation’s young people.

“Legacy’s research is further proof that Big Tobacco is targeting children in order to addict them to nicotine,” said U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “The use of television ads and flavors like Cherry Crush and Peachy Keen are affecting American youth as more young people use electronic cigarettes every year. In order to protect Americans, and prevent a new generation of Americans who will live with the health consequences of nicotine addiction, the FDA has to step up and crack down on e-cig companies marketing to children.” 

More than 90% of smokers start by the age of 20. Currently, electronic cigarettes can be sold to minors in many places throughout the country and are offered in a wide variety of flavors that appeal to kids and teenagers, including cherry, cotton candy, and Gummi Bear. While cigarette advertising is prohibited on television, it is currently fair game to use television to promote electronic cigarettes. Using broadcast and online advertising has allowed the e-cigarette industry to promote its products in a way that has broad reach and is largely unregulated.

The Surgeon General’s 50th Anniversary Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking calls for the acceleration of a national movement to reduce tobacco use. The effective implementation of the FDA’s authority to regulate tobacco products and tobacco-derived nicotine prod­ucts could substantially change the landscape for e-cigarette sales and marketing. FDA authority over tobacco products has the potential to be a key policy lever to reduce tobacco use and its harms for the general population and – most importantly – for youth.

To view the Vaporized report please visit: https://www.americanlegacy.org/content/download/4542/63436/version/1/file/LEG-Vaporized-E-cig_Report-May2014.pdf 


Legacy helps people live longer, healthier lives by building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Legacy’s proven-effective and nationally recognized public education programs include truth®, the national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. To learn more about Legacy’s life-saving programs, visit www.LegacyForHealth.org.

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