• April 2, 2020

Advertising under attack

The more adolescents say they have seen advertisements for electronic cigarettes, the more often they vape e-cigarettes and smoke tobacco cigarettes, according to a press note from the European Lung Association based on a study published in ERJ Open Research. The press note was published at eurekalert.org.

The study was conducted in Germany, where regulations around tobacco and e-cigarettes advertising are less restrictive than in other parts of Europe.

“The World Health Organization recommends a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Dr. Julia Hansen, a senior researcher at the Institute for Therapy and Health Research (IFT-Nord), Kiel, Germany, was quoted as saying. “Despite this, in Germany, tobacco and e-cigarettes can still be advertised in shops, on billboards and in cinemas after 6pm. Elsewhere, although tobacco advertising may be banned, the regulations on advertising e-cigarettes are more variable. We wanted to investigate the impact that advertising might be having on young people.”

The researchers asked 6,902 pupils from schools in six German states to fill in anonymous questionnaires. They were aged between 10 and 18 years of age, with an average age of 13. They were asked about their lifestyle, including diet, exercise, smoking and use of e-cigarettes. They were also asked about their socioeconomic status and school performance.

The pupils were presented with pictures of real e-cigarette advertisements with brand names removed and asked how often they had seen each one.

Overall 39 percent of the pupils said they had seen the advertisements. And those who said they had seen the advertisements were found to be 2.3 times more likely to say that they used e-cigarettes and 40 percent more likely to say that they smoked tobacco cigarettes [presumably, than those who said they hadn’t seen the advertisements].

The results were said to have suggested also a correlation between seeing more advertisements and using e-cigarettes and smoking tobacco cigarettes more often.

Other factors such as age, sensation-seeking tendency, the type of school the teenagers attended and having a friend who smoked were also all linked to the likelihood of using e-cigarettes and smoking.

“In this large study of adolescents we clearly see a pattern: those who say they have seen e-cigarette adverts are more likely to say they have used e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes,” said Hansen, who was a co-researcher on the study.

“This type of research cannot prove cause and effect, but it does suggest that e-cigarette advertising is reaching these vulnerable young people. At the same time, we know that the makers of e-cigarettes are offering kid-friendly flavours such as gummi bear, bubble-gum and cherry.”