In an op-ed piece published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, professor of epidemiology Dr. Ruth Etzel - formerly with the World Health Organization - called for a ban on electronic cigarette advertising. However, she made no similar call for a ban on tobacco cigarette advertising.
In the piece, she writes: "E-cigarettes are marketed in a variety of flavors, including cherry
crush, peach schnapps, java jolt and magnificent menthol; such flavoring
agents increase the appeal of the product to youth. Not surprisingly,
the use of e-cigarettes is rapidly increasing among children. This is why this "next generation" product is of concern to
pediatricians like myself; it offers an excellent way to addict the next
generation of children to nicotine. ... We are at a critical juncture now — a moment when we can prevent
children from being duped by advertising into using e-cigarettes. We
should take steps to ban the advertising of e-cigarettes and prohibit
their use indoors to ensure that the next generation does not suffer the
The Rest of the Story
While Dr. Etzel seems to be quite concerned about youth use of e-cigarettes, she fails to display a similar level of concern about youth using tobacco cigarettes. In fact, while she calls for a ban on electronic cigarette advertising to protect youths from possible nicotine addiction, she makes no similar call for a ban on tobacco advertising, which we know leads many youths to definite nicotine addiction.
What possible justification is there for banning advertising for electronic cigarettes, but not for the real thing?
This story illustrates how misguided anti-smoking efforts are at the present time. We are placing a huge emphasis on trying to protect kids from e-cigarettes, but losing our focus on preventing kids from becoming addicted to smoking, a behavior that will eventually kill half of those who become regular users.
While anti-smoking groups push for bans on vaping in all workplaces and public places - even outdoor parks - throughout the nation, they are doing virtually nothing about the problem of secondhand smoke that is actually killing people: nearly half of the states still fail to protect workers from tobacco smoke exposure in bars, restaurants, and/or casinos.
It is also important to mention that banning electronic cigarette advertising would violate the First Amendment rights of e-cigarette companies.
Instead, what we need are FDA regulations that will prevent the marketing of electronic cigarettes to youth. An outright ban on e-cigarette advertising is neither sensible nor constitutional.
More importantly, we need anti-smoking groups to once again become anti-smoking. Electronic cigarettes are devices which are helping thousands of smokers to get off cigarettes. Groups which oppose these products are opposing a viable form of smoking cessation. This is tantamount to being pro-smoking.
Instead of worrying about banning electronic cigarettes in every park, sidewalk, and beach in the country, anti-smoking groups should get back to the business of trying to reduce smoking: that means focusing on promoting smoke-free workplaces in the states that still don't offer such protection and embracing e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation and harm reduction strategy.
To be sure, the FDA should prohibit the marketing of electronic cigarettes to youth. But a total ban on electronic cigarette advertising would be throwing away the baby with the bath water.
so many tobacco control advocates want to protect cigarettes from competition
is baffling to me.