The Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce plans this week that would sharply restrict the sale of most flavored pod-style e-cigarettes to reduce access among children. Although the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is already prohibited, New York’s health department has estimated 28 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes.
Jeff Niederdeppe, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, studies the mechanisms and effects of mass media campaigns, strategic health messages and news coverage in shaping health behavior. He says the potential restrictions highlight how flavored e-cigarettes are directly targeted toward young people.
“This proposal reflects growing recognition that e-cigarette companies market these products in ways that attract young people to use them. These efforts have contributed to a public health crisis in which a new generation of young people are becoming addicted to nicotine, which in and of itself can have harmful effects on the brain. Many of these young people will transition to combustible cigarettes, which has much greater health risks.
“Much of the public debate around e-cigarettes has focused on their potential to reduce harm by encouraging smokers of combustible cigarettes to switch. It is difficult to see how flavors like ‘cotton candy’ and ‘gummy bears’ are designed to appeal to adult smokers; they clearly appeal to youth. Banning the use of these and other flavors would be an important first step in reducing the largely unregulated marketing of these products in ways that appeal to youth.”