WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) helped unveil a new study showing Big Tobacco’s marketing efforts aimed at American youth. The study, “Vaporized: e-cigarettes, advertising, and youth,” was conducted by the non-profit Legacy and builds on a recent report that Brown and his colleagues released finding a dramatic increase in the marketing of e-cigs to youth through candy and fruit flavored products, social media, and sponsorship of youth-oriented events.

“Legacy’s research is further proof that Big Tobacco is targeting children in order to addict them to nicotine,” Brown said. “The use of television ads and flavors like Cherry Crush and Peachy Keen are affecting American youth as more young people use electronic cigarettes every year. In order to protect Americans, and prevent a new generation of Americans who will live with the health consequences of nicotine addiction, the FDA has to step up and crack down on e-cig companies marketing to children.” 

Among the Legacy study’s most important findings are:

  • Nearly all young people aged 13 to 21 (89 percent) were aware of e-cigs;
  • More than 14 percent of young people aged 13 to 17 have smoked e-cigs;
  • More than 39 percent of young people aged 18 to 21 have smoked e-cigs;
  • About 60 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 17 were aware of e-cig marketing on major advertising channels;
  • In a survey of the top 24 e-cig brands, the industry spent $39 million on advertising between June 2013 and November 2013; and
  • More than 73 percent of young people aged 12 to 17 were exposed to Blu advertisements, by far the industry’s biggest spender.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed “deeming regulations” over e-cigs and other tobacco products. The FDA’s proposal followed a meeting last month between Brown, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and the Commissioner of the FDA, Margaret Hamburg. During their meeting, Brown, Blumenthal, and Merkley urged the agency to do everything in its power to expand its oversight of Big Tobacco in order to protect consumers from the dangers of e-cigs and ensure they aren’t being marketed to children.

Brown and his colleagues’ report, entitled “Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth,” was compiled using responses from eight e-cigarette manufacturers and the lawmakers’ investigation of the industry through publicly available information. It found pervasive the marketing of e-cigs to children through the use of practices illegal for traditional cigarettes. Prior to these studies, the The New York Times published a shocking report that detailed the potential harms of e-liquids (liquid nicotine), the main ingredient in e-cigs which is not yet regulated by the federal government, despite a dramatic 300 percent increase in accidental poisonings.

With Big Tobacco seeking to replace the 480,000 customers it loses every year to tobacco-related deaths, Brown has fought to reduce the negative effects of tobacco use for Ohioans. This includes pressing the FDA and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to regulate tobacco products to the full extent of their powers, such as the use of graphic warning labels, finalizing their regulatory powers over tobacco products, and ensuring that all tobacco products are properly taxed and controlled. Last month, Brown followed up on a December letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA, urging the agencies to take enforcement action against e-cig manufacturers who make unsubstantiated or false claims in their advertising, including unproven assertions that their products help smokers of conventional cigarettes quit.  

Legacy is a non-profit dedicated to studying and providing education on tobacco and its use. It was established in 1999 as a part of a major agreement between nearly all U.S. states and the major tobacco companies. At the states’ request, part of the money from the tobacco industry is used to fund Legacy and its work.