WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 14 (UPI) -- The use of electronic cigarettes, especially among teens and young adults, has skyrocketed over the last few years, and so far, e-cigarettes remain largely unregulated.
That means, unlike other tobacco products, e-cig advertisements are published with greater ease and fewer restraints. That's bad news according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who say e-cig marketing can increase a viewer's urge to smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Researchers at Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication had some 800 regular, occasional and former smokers watch a series of e-cigarette advertisement culled from various corners of the Internet. Afterward, viewers took a survey aimed at measuring smoking urges, intentions and behaviors.
The experiment showed that regular smokers had a greater urge to reach for the cigarettes after watching vaporizer commercials, than did daily smokers who did not watch the video ads.
"We know that exposure to smoking cues such as visual depictions of cigarettes, ashtrays, matches, lighters, and smoke heightens smokers' urge to smoke a cigarette, and decreases former smokers' confidence in their ability to refrain from smoking a cigarette," study co-author Erin Maloney explained.
"Because many e-cigarette brands that have a budget to advertise on television are visually similar to tobacco cigarettes, we wanted to see if similar effects can be attributed to e-cigarette advertising," Maloney added.
Last year, e-cig companies spent an estimated $1 billion on marketing. That number is expected to grow exponentially.
"Given the sophistication of cigarette marketing in the past and the exponential increase in advertising dollars allotted to e-cigarette promotion in the past year, it should be expected that advertisements for these products created by big tobacco companies will maximize smoking cues in their advertisements, and if not regulated, individuals will be exposed to much more e-cigarette advertising on a daily basis," Maloney and co-author Joseph Cappella wrote in their paper on the subject -- published this week in the journal Health Communication.
The majority of large e-cigarette companies are now owned by the major players of Big Tobacco.