Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration does not regulate electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) marketing unless it is advertised as a smoking cessation aid. To date, the extent to which youth and young adults are exposed to e-cigarette television advertisements is unknown. The objective of this study was to analyze trends in youth and young adult exposure to e-cigarette television advertisements in the United States.
Nielsen data on television household audiences’ exposure to e-cigarette advertising across US markets were examined by calendar quarter, year, and sponsor.
Youth exposure to television e-cigarette advertisements, measured by target rating points, increased 256% from 2011 to 2013. Young adult exposure increased 321% over the same period. More than 76% of all youth e-cigarette advertising exposure occurred on cable networks and was driven primarily by an advertising campaign for 1 e-cigarette brand.
E-cigarette companies currently advertise their products to a broad audience that includes 24 million youth. The dramatic increase in youth and young adult television exposure between 2011 and 2013 was driven primarily by a large advertising campaign on national cable networks. In the absence of evidence-based public health messaging, the current e-cigarette television advertising may be promoting beliefs and behaviors that pose harm to the public health. If current trends in e-cigarette television advertising continue, awareness and use of e-cigarettes are likely to increase among youth and young adults.