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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Attack of the Ads

Published January 8, 2016 2:01 PM by ADVANCE for Respiratory Care & Sleep Medicine

By Tamer Abouras


There are numerous wonderful things about how information is produced in the digital age. Entire publications which once required dozens of people under one roof to put together can now be written, edited and adorned with art and illustration by a completely remote, distributed workforce.

For writers and editors, there’s flexibility in knowing that we can check emails from our phones, read and share investigative reports with one another and even conduct meetings and video conferences from mobile electronic devices. These are all, when taken together, encouraging signs that journalism may yet live in its new, less tactile medium.

With that being said, one of the worst and most irritating aspects of this day and age — whether you’re covering stories or reading them — is the proliferation of advertisements. Particularly on the internet, there’s simply no escaping the bombardment — especially when they’re buried within your newsfeed and disguised as Facebook posts or tweets. And they are often very loosely tied to things you’ve searched for, sometimes just once.

SEE ALSO: Investigating E-Cigarettes

The revenues from ad sales are the lifeblood for many publications these days and they remain so because, in spite of our oft-professed hatred for ads, they do reach us and affect our buying behavior — especially on the internet, where one need only expend a few clicks and enter a few pieces of information to secure a purchase. The subtle, seductive messaging thrives off of our impulsivity.

Which all serves to make this that much more disturbing: “About 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million young people – see e-cigarette advertising in stores, online, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies,” according to a new CDC Vital Signs report.

“The same advertising tactics the tobacco industry used years ago to get kids addicted to nicotine are now being used to entice a new generation of young people to use e-cigarettes,”  said CDC Director, Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.

While the report does not specifically indicate how effective the ad saturation is on teen e-cigarette purchases, the numbers suggest that minors have to be driving — at least in part — the rising profits of the industry.

“Data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) show 68.9% of middle and high school students see e-cigarettes ads from one or more media sources. More youth see e-cigarette ads in retail stores (54.8%) than online (39.8%), in TV/movies (36.5%), or in newspapers and magazines (30.4%).

In 2014, e-cigarettes became the most commonly used tobacco product among youth, surpassing conventional cigarettes. During 2011 to 2014, current e-cigarette use among high school students soared from 1.5% to 13.4% and among middle school students from 1.6% to 3.9%. Spending on e-cigarette advertising rose from $6.4 million in 2011 to an estimated $115 million in 2014.”

The entire report is worth a read, but the most important factor may be contained within this quote from Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health: “We know what works to effectively reduce youth tobacco use. If we were to fully invest in these proven strategies, we could significantly reduce the staggering toll that tobacco takes on our families and communities.”

E-cigarettes have been getting a pass for too long, based upon the faulty premise that they’re healthier for you than conventional cigarettes. Now that they’re coming for our school children, it’s time to fight back and tell this burgeoning industry enough is enough. It’s time to put those lights out.

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