The War Over Vaping’s Health Risks Is Getting Dirty


( – by Danielle Venton)  FOR NICOTINE ENTHUSIASTS, capsule 2015 will be remembered as part of a golden era. Less than 10 years after they were introduced in the United States, treat e-cigarettes have gone relatively unregulated by health agencies, drugstore with companies and users making their own rules in a nicotine-laced Wild West. E-cigarette companies have been advertising their products to adults and children alike, claiming to help smokers quit while simultaneously promoting lollipop-flavored liquids. But now health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even city-based public health departments are starting to fight back—not in the form of regulations, but with their own media campaigns.

It’s a tough fight to pick. Nationwide, more than 20 million people—about one in 10 adults—have tried e-cigarettes, and plenty of those people have become vaping devotees. That’s due at least in part to the way e-cig companies have advertised their products, unhindered by the FDA’s ad regulations for tobacco products. “It’s totally out of control,” says Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco. “For the first time since 1972, we have recreational nicotine being advertised on television and radio.” Reminiscent of glamorous smoking ads of the last century, many of the ads feature celebrity endorsements; in a Blu ad, Jenny McCarthy flirts with the camera while rejoicing that she can now smoke without scaring guys away with her smell. And many of them seem shockingly child-centric. “The youth use is exploding in parallel to the marketing,” says Glantz.

What’s a concerned public health agency to do? Fight ads with ads.

Health advocates were relatively slow to react to the onslaught of e-cigarettes, but recently, national, state, and city-level public health organizations have launched their own campaigns against e-cigarettes and their promiscuous advertising. On March 30, the CDC began its first anti-smoking campaign featuring e-cigarette users. Last week, the California Department of Public Health launched a anti-vaping campaign called Still Blowing Smoke. And in January, the San Francisco Department of Health launched #CurbIt, pointing out the dangers of e-cigs and their brazen plays to hook kids while warning residents that vaping is only allowed in the same places as smoking.

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