UT research shows greater e-cigarette use due to unregulated marketing

Lauren Rahman

Exposure to different kinds of electronic cigarette marketing, especially in retail stores and on TV, is associated with increased initiation of use in young people, according to a new study led by a UT researcher.

The study looked at 2,288 teens and 2,423 young adults across Texas who never used e-cigarettes before, and predicted their use of e-cigarettes two and a half years later, said Alexandra Loukas, UT professor and study lead. Loukas said the study looked at the effect of five different types of marketing on those who have never smoked e-cigarettes: TV, radio, billboards, retail stores and the internet. 

“We found that retail store e-cigarette marketing was associated with higher odds of e-cigarette use among both youth and young adults two and a half years later,” Loukas said. “Among the young adults, recall of marketing on TV also predicted an increased likelihood of e-cigarette initiation.”

Loukas said everyone in the 2014 study had never smoked e-cigarettes before. However, by the end of the two-and-a-half year period, 14% started using e-cigarettes.

The study concluded that the Food and Drug Administration should consider increased regulations on e-cigarette marketing. Keryn Pasch, associate professor of kinesiology and health education, said she thinks removing tobacco marketing or putting it out of the direct line of sight of youths when they’re making purchases would decrease tobacco and e-cigarette use. 


“We know from lots of previous research that the retail environment is really important as far as a predictor of cigarette use in youth and young adults, so I think it’s really important that we’re now seeing that the retail environment has a similar effect for e-cigarettes,” Pasch said. 

Loukas said the study was conducted before Juul entered the market in 2015, which could have led to more severe results.

“We’re actually looking at pre-Juul data here,” Loukas said. “We have been following these adolescents and young adults across time. It could be possible that it would be even stronger if we looked at Juul data for marketing, but that’s not included.”

Biology senior Jarrett Rong said he frequently sees the retail marketing of Juul around campus.

“I see Juul advertisements at gas stations all the time, and most of the time they’re incredibly discounted for the entry cost to be low,” Rong said. “I think it’s unfair and unethical for companies and stores to easily market addiction to young adults.”