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Teens most drawn to e-cigs by online ads

A new U.S. study suggests that the current generation of digital citizens is most attracted by e-cigarette advertising they see online.

To verify which e-cigarette ad formats were most influential to teens, researchers studied data from a recent nationwide survey of about 22,000 middle school and high school students from grades 6 through 12, when youth are generally about 12 to 18 years old.

When middle school kids said they regularly viewed e-cigarette ads online, they were almost thrice more likely to use the devices than their peers who never came across ads. High school students who frequently viewed online ads were about two times more likely to use e-cigarettes.

Lead study author Dr. Tushar Singh of the Office on Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said, "E-cigarette ads use many of the same themes used to sell cigarettes and other conventional tobacco products, such as independence, rebellion and sex."

Always viewing e-cigarette ads on television shows and movies was linked to 80 percent greater chances that middle school students used e-cigarettes and 54 percent higher chances for high school students, compared to teens who never saw these ads.

The findings from this e-cigarette study corroborate with previous research showing how ads for traditional cigarettes promote smoking, said William Shadel, a senior behavioral scientist at RAND in Pittsburgh, who wasn't involved in the study.

Shadel said, "Advertising is thought to make product use seem more normative and acceptable, and to convey the impression that positive outcomes like having fun or feeling attractive will result from use."