The Federal Trade Commission is taking public comments on a proposed study of the e-cigarette industry, and Comptroller Scott Stringer wants the agency to look into e-cig makers marketing their noxious wares to kids. In his testimony to the commission, the Daily News reports, Stringer said the new crop of nicotine delivery devices is using the old, now-banned tricks of the tobacco industry to get the populace hooked young.
"The same companies that peddled 'Joe Camel' and similar, kid-friendly images to an earlier generation are back with new ad strategies that appear to target e-cigarettes just as explicitly toward children and teens, with little or no regard for any potential health impacts," he wrote.
E-cigarette use is on the rise among kids as cigarette smoking continues to decline. A Center for Disease Control study last year found that 13.4 percent of youngsters surveyed had vaped in the past month, versus less than 10 percent who had puffed a square.
The ban on marketing cigarettes to kids came out of a landmark 1998 settlement agreement between the attorneys general of 46 states and big tobacco companies. In addition to mandating $200 billion in payments, the terms prohibited using cartoons, outdoor advertising, free samples at all-ages events, distributing cigarette-branded clothes, and more.
Now, the largely unregulated e-cigarette industry is advertising on subways, buses, and billboards, and as Stringer notes, in magazines and on TV, at summer concerts, with celebrity endorsers, and with cartoons, including one of Santa. Fruity flavors, also banned for tobacco, are back, too.
Stringer writes that while the jury is out on the long-term health effects of vaping, "the research about the damaging health effects of nicotine on adolescent brain development are clear," and the FTC should scrutinize the industry for truth in marketing.
The comptroller's comments echo a letter to the FTC by Senate Democrats from around the country.
I can report that looking at old cigarette ads while researching this story activated the animal/fiend part of my brain that is forever altered by smoking, and that smoking is a bad idea. Vaping is less stinky, and it may or may not be healthier, but it's still addictive, and it looks silly. Mmkay?