Despite the law, e-cigarettes are still sold online, increasing their easy availability to youth. A national organization battling teen smoking notes online sales benefit from marketing using celebrities and YouTube videos depicting e-cigarettes as hip and glamorous. One publicity campaign, for example, includes a cartoon pitchman named, “Mr. Cool.”
“This explosion of e-cigarette marketing threatens to undo decades of efforts to deglamorize smoking to kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The new CDC data show their marketing is enticing kids to start what could become a lifelong addiction to tobacco.”
The trade association for e-cigarettes, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, issued a statement, “Electronic cigarettes should not be sold or marketed to minors.” The association also says e-cigarettes are safer for adults than tobacco cigarettes, providing a hit of nicotine without the toxins and other dangerous chemicals present in regular smokes. The industry group says the provision of nicotine through an e-cigarette is no different than a person who enjoys a cup of coffee for a dose of caffeine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rebuts those claims, saying the safety of e-cigarettes has not been verified in clinical trials. The FDA this month is expected to propose the first-ever federal regulations of e-cigarettes, while the CDC already offers a warning to teenagers.
“We are worried about the adolescent use of nicotine because the adolescent brain is uniquely susceptible to addiction,” said McAfee of the CDC. “And nicotine is harmful to their brain development.”
And their lives. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, an e-cigarette cartridge can contain the same amount of nicotine as one-and-a-half packs of cigarettes — a dosage that can be lethal to teenagers who use e-cigarettes improperly.