In the wake of a new report that found e-cigarettes pose serious health risks and are just as addictive as conventional cigarettes, the California Department of Public Health is launching a campaign to put a damper on the vapor devices.
The state health department is rolling out a series of television, digital, and outdoor ads in a new campaign called “Wake Up,” as part of its educational effort to inform the public about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
“California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress,” said Dr. Karen Smith, newly appointed CDPH director and state health officer.
The study, “State Health Officer’s Repot on E-Cigarettes: A Community Health Threat,” found that e-cigarettes, contain a level of toxicity that could prove harmful to users. The report points to preliminary studies that have shown that using a nicotine containing e-cigarette for just five minutes causes similar lung irritation, inflammation, and effect on blood vessels as smoking a traditional cigarette.
E-cigarettes are battery operated devices, often designed to resemble cigarettes that deliver a nicotine-containing aerosol. E-cigarettes have many names, especially among youth and young adults, such as e-cigs, e-hookahs, vape pens, vape pipes or mods. The liquid solution (e-liquid) used in e-cigarettes typically contains nicotine and is commonly referred to as “e-juice.” It is sold in a variety of candy, fruit and alcohol flavors.
A health advisory issued by the CDPH in January warned e-cigarette users that analyses of eliquids by the Food and Drug Administration and other laboratories found variability in the content of e liquids and inaccurate product labeling related to nicotine content and chemicals.
The advertising campaign includes two television ads that feature songs from the 1950s and 60s and images portraying the health risks of e-cigarettes. One TV ad underscores the e-cigarette industry’s use of candy flavored ‘e-juice’ and products that entice the next generation to become addicted to nicotine. The second TV spot emphasizes the dangers and addictiveness of e-cigarettes, while exposing the fact that big tobacco companies are in the e-cigarette business. E-cigarettes are largely unregulated at the federal level and companies are not required to disclose what is in their products or how they are made.
Outdoor ads, including billboards, at gas stations and in malls, and ads in movie theaters will be phased in throughout the campaign, which will run through June.
“Our advertising campaign is telling the public to ‘wake up’ to the fact that these are highly addictive products being mass marketed,” said Dr. Smith.
New California data shows that e-cigarette use among young adults, ages 18 – 29, increased from 2.3 percent in 2012 to 7.6 percent in 2013. Young adults in California are three times more likely to use e-cigarettes than those 30 and older. Likewise, e-cigarette use among U.S. teens has surged. In 2014, teen use of e-cigarettes nationally surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes, with more than twice as many 8th and 10th graders reporting using e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes. Among 12th graders, 17 percent reported currently using e-cigarettes vs. 14 percent using traditional cigarettes.
The increase in usage of the devices has also brought up the number of reports to poison control centers in the state for overdosing on nicotine-containing e-liquids and accidental e-cigarette poisonings – from 19 in 2012 to 243 in 2014. More than 60 percent of all those e-cigarette related calls involve children 5 years and under, according to the study. In California, the number of calls to the poison control center involving e-cigarette exposures in children five and under tripled in one year.
Ecigarette emissions are also a health concern for those exposed to the secondhand aerosol. Although not as dangerous as secondhand smoke from combustible tobacco products, people exposed to e cigarette aerosol absorb nicotine at levels comparable to people exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the CDPH’s data.
In addition to the advertising, the CDPH educational campaign will include:
• Partnering with the local public health, medical, and child care organizations to increase awareness about the known toxicity of e-cigarettes and the high risk of poisonings, especially to children, while continuing to promote and support the use of proven effective cessation therapies.
• Joining with the California Department of Education and school officials to assist in providing accurate information to parents, students, teachers, and school administrators on the dangers of e-cigarettes.