The debate over whether or not electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional ones is not new. However, more and more states are beginning to tighten the reins on not only the sale of e-cigarettes, but also the marketing of them.
Public health groups are trying to persuade the governments in their city or state to pass bans and/or restrictions on e-cigarettes, due to the fact that more research on their effects is needed. Not only are the long-term effects on the user unknown, but the smoke they emit has unknown effects on the air, as well. There is already evidence of health risks related to the product.
For example, as described in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, e-cigarettes have higher concentrations of formaldehyde than traditional cigarettes. That is one of numerous risks that studies have found so far — and even those studies have been limited.
Despite all of these health risks — not to mention the obvious fact that children should not be permitted to access e-cigs or the liquid that is used in them — many e-cigarette companies have been accused of marketing their products to children. In fact, many of their flavors, which are supposedly designed for adults, have kid-friendly flavors. As many as 84.2% of e-liquid distributors make fruit flavors, 79.9% make dessert or candy flavors, and 77.5% make alcohol or cocktail flavors.
The flavors, often marketed through advertisements on shows that are popular with young people, have people in an uproar. Pediatrics, a medical journal, found that 12 to 17 year olds saw almost three times as many ads for e-cigs in 2013 compared to 2011. It has been found by other studies that the aggressiveness of salespeople can also be a contributing factor.
There are now more teenagers using electronic cigarettes than teens smoking traditional cigarettes, due not only to the marketing focus on them, but to the lingering idea that e-cigs are not as bad for you as regular cigarettes. Since there is no federal stance on the issue, states and cities are issuing their own laws on this topic.
One of the states that has already weighed in is Maryland, which has banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, while other state and local governments have followed suits with bans on the use of e-cigs in public places. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommends that an age restriction be enforced.
It does not seem that the e-cigarette manufacturers are hearing the plea from parents to stop marketing to their children, however. They continue to make flavors like gummi Bear, bubble gum, cotton candy and Papa Smurph E-Liquid.
“We are seeing evidence that the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes poses a serious risk of poisoning to children and adults,” said Maryland Attorney General Gansler. “Unlike traditional tobacco products, this industry is unregulated. There are no uniform health and safety warning labels and no standards for childproof packaging. E-cigarette use by youth is growing and this industry needs to get better control of how it markets and appeals to minors.”