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The Impact of Ecig Ads

New research from the National Bureau of Economic Research looks at the impact of vape advertising.

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The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper #24277 asks “Does E-Cigarette Advertising Encourage Adult Smokers to Quit?” Given the volume of anti-vape research that sets out to discover the danger of advertising, would anybody like to guess what this new study found? In short, vape ads save lives.

Dhaval, Dench, Grossman, Kenkel and Saffer produced the study and work for Bentley University, Cornell University, the City University of New York and NBER itself. The team writes: “There was virtually no advertising before 2012, followed by a sharp increase through 2014. Advertising decreased in 2015 but increased again in 2016. Almost 48 percent of adults have been exposed to e-cigarette marketing and youth exposure to TV ads increased over 250 percent between 2011 and 2013.”

Reading on, it quickly becomes apparent that this study (unlike many others) is taking an enlightened approach to harm reduction: “While e-cigarettes are not a completely safe alternative to cigarettes, in April 2016 the Royal College of Physicians in Great Britain issued a report urging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes (Royal College of Physicians 2016). That echoed advice some physicians had started giving to their patients who smoked.”

They go further, the team highlights: “The recent trends in U.S. smoking rates provide hints that the growth of e-cigarette use might be helping reduce smoking.” Plus, removing any shred of doubt that this isn’t anything but positive news for vaping: “growth in e-cigarette use among youth was also accompanied by a downward trend in youth smoking - past month smoking participation fell from 10.5 percent in 2011 to 6.1 percent in 2015.”

“The purpose of this paper is to shed light on one side of the contentious debate just outlined by investigating whether e-cigarette advertising on television and in magazines encourage adult smokers to quit.”

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that people tend to like vape products more if they see favourable adverts. In 2016, a University of Cambridge study erroneously contended that vape ads drive ex-smokers back to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Also, continuing the theme of flawed and failed to be replicated studies, the same establishment ‘found’ that vape ads attract children to try “candy-flavoured e-cigarettes”. The University of California reckoned ads lure teens into vaping. Advertising matters frequently crop up in flawed studies, and highlights the flaws in restricting what vape adverts can say.

The NBER paper concludes: “Our results should give pause to those who advocate a complete ban on e-cigarette advertising.” It warns about the rise in the “perceived harm of e-cigarettes” in adults. “In 2015 approximately 36 percent of adults perceived that e-cigarettes had the same level of harm as cigarettes compared to only 12 percent in 2012. Even more striking, there was a four- fold increase in the number of adults who perceived e-cigarettes to be more harmful than cigarettes from roughly 1 percent in 2012 to 4 percent in 2015. In light of contradictory evidence in the medical literature, these trends point to a lack of information about a product that potentially is harm-reducing.”

The team puts hard numbers to the words, contending that if advertising wasn’t supressed then there would have been a rise of 10% in the number of quitting American smokers – resulting in 350,000 cases of reduced harm.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper #24277: “Does E-Cigarette Advertising Encourage Adult Smokers to Quit?”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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