Ecig ads are reaching our youth at increasingly high rates. It’s true, according to a new study by the Truth Initiative, an anti-tobacco organization. Their numbers say 82% of people aged 12 to 17 have seen an advertisement for electronic cigarettes in 2015. There is no beating around the bush on this one. It sure does sound like a lot of minors are being exposed to ecig ads. The question we are left with is how much does this matter and what can actually be done? Anti-vaping activists will quickly try to paint this as luring youth to a new path that leads to smoking. But, as is often the case when talking about vaping and youth, their anger is probably unjustified.
Why is it unjustified? As much as we try to get kids to not pick up smoking, many still do. Is it because of cigarette advertising? Not likely, that industry has been squeezed into a corner for a very long time. Young people will still make their mistakes and one of them is to try smoking. It’s also possible they will try vaping, but despite opponents scare tactics against ecigs, the facts don’t show that vaping leads to smoking among youth. The media frenzy is simply unjustified.
Also, in case anyone missed it, we live in what is commonly called the information age. You can’t really stop young people from finding out about anything, and if it isn’t directly from an advertisement it will be from something much more powerful: walking advertisements. Plenty of Americans still smoke, and many of them are role models to younger people, like it or not. Whether these are celebrities or parents, they can make the lack of smoking ads irrelevant.
This isn’t to say that companies should be targeting young people with ecig ads however, far from it.
Ecig Ads Aren’t Directed At Youth
The thing is… nobody has yet to prove any sort of hidden agenda that shows ecig companies are targeting young people. While this was more clearly the case back when cigarette advertising was around (Joe Camel, anyone?), it isn’t anywhere near that obvious now.
Don’t tell Robin Koval that. As CEO and President of Truth Initiative, he sees evil in the very ecig ads that can help smokers find an alternative to traditional tobacco smoke. “It’s no accident that spending on e-cigarette marketing has increased by more than 50 percent and that a majority of youth have seen these ads,” says Koval. Koval is right, it isn’t an accident.
It’s called the growth of an industry.
As a product becomes more popular, and hopefully at the same time helps people who need that product, companies are going to grow. As they grow, guess what they will do? They will spend more money on advertising to keep growing. Pretty basic concept, isn’t it?
So it isn’t an accident that ecig ads have increase by more than 50 percent, and that where advertising is, so are teenagers. What 15 or 16 year old hasn’t snuck into a rated R movie with ease? Do you think that these young people aren’t watching the same programming at home on TV that adults are? You’re lying to yourself if you don’t think so.
But Koval insists that “Advertising, particularly television, is extremely expensive and no advertiser would waste money against a target that is outside their intended audience. These new data provide further evidence that the Food and Drug Administration must restrict e-cigarette marketing to youth.” The problem is that this “point” of his has absolutely no founding in data or reality. Companies don’t like to throw their money away either, so advertising to young people wouldn’t be the priority – smokers would be. That is the group of consumers who is most likely to purchase an evapor product.
Koval does have a point that we should be making every effort to try and avoid youth being targeted by ecig ads. That’s pretty much a given, but how do we do it? Certainly if he can point to ads shown during cartoons, for instance, or certain times of the day where mainly young people watch TV, then we could get behind him. But that’s not what he does, because he doesn’t have any data to prove it. Koval simply takes a large number with little analysis and tries to use it to convince us that ecig companies are evil and must be stopped. This is just another emotional “think of the children” cry to rally people against ecigs, not a rational argument grounded in facts. Hopefully the public and, even more importantly, elected officials, are smart enough to see right through it.