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E-cigarette Ads May Trigger Usage Among Teens

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A new study found that advertising may boost young adult's interest in using electronic cigarettes.

Researchers assessed e-cigarette use among at least 4,000 young adults 18 to 34 years old. The participants were randomly put into categories that made them view or not e-cigarette ads. 6 percent of these young adults who never tried e-cigarette smoking before decided to do so within six months after seeing the ads.

Among the regular cigarette or e-cigarette young adult users in the study, almost 4 percent of them who had seen the ads tried the devices they were shown compared to the 1 percent who did not see the ads.

The volunteers who had seen the ads were also more interested to try the battery powered e-cigarettes than those who did not.

"Our study is the first randomized controlled study to show that forced exposure to e-cigarette advertising has an impact on longer-term e-cigarette trial in a small number of never users," said lead author Andrea Villanti, part of the research team who conducted the study at the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies.

Promotional efforts for e-cigarette smoking across all forms of media have grown exponentially since 2010.

And since e-cigarettes are not subject to the same law and restrictions that regulate cigarette and other tobacco products, the devices' manufactures have been able to place ads on television and radio programs as well as becoming sponsors of entertainment and sports events.

The researchers believed that their study's results give concrete evidence on the impact of advertising to encouraging young people to take up the e-cigarette habit.

"These findings highlight the potential impact of unrestricted e-cigarette advertising to enhance curiosity and trial of e-cigarettes in young adults," Villanti said.

Being touted as the healthy alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, it is growing increasingly popular among young adults and the youth today.

However, medical experts are still debating on whether there is truth to this claim, and some are even warning users away from e-cigarettes, claiming that they are not as harmless as advertised.

"The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes."

The study was published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

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