The Federal Trade Commission’s first report on e-cigarette sales and advertising reveals disturbing trends affecting the health of young Americans

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The Federal Trade Commission’s first-ever report on e-cigarette products paints a disturbing picture of rising e-cigarette sales and advertising that may harm the health of America’s youth.

The report, which is based on industry data provided for the years 2015 to 2018, shows that total sales of electronic cigarettes, including disposable units and those using interchangeable cartridges, increased more than sixfold, from 304 $.2 million to $2.06 billion in these three countries. years alone. Sales of fruit and other flavored e-cigarette cartridges favored by young people have increased sevenfold over this period, and nicotine levels in disposable e-cigarette products have also increased.

“The Commission’s inaugural report on e-cigarettes paints a worrying picture, especially as e-cigarettes are driving an unprecedented increase in the use of tobacco products by young people,” said Samuel Levine, Director from the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau. “The data shows that this increase has coincided with dramatic spikes in flavored product market share, higher concentrations of nicotine, and an industry attempt to evade the ban on free sampling.”

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In October 2019, the Commission issued identical orders under FTC Section 6(b) to six of the largest national e-cigarette manufacturers:

  • Fontem US, Inc.;
  • JUUL Labs, Inc.
  • LLC Logic Technology Development;
  • NJOY, LLC;
  • Nu Mark LLC; and
  • RJ Reynolds Vapor Company.

While the FTC has collected information on traditional cigarette and smokeless tobacco sales and advertising spending for many years, this was the first time it had sought information related to e-cigarettes. The orders related to e-cigarette sales and advertising and promotional activities from 2015 to 2018. The report released today presents an aggregated and anonymized summary of the information the six companies provided to the Commission.

Main findings

Total sales. The data collected shows a dramatic increase in sales of e-cigarettes in general between 2015 and 2018 (from $304.2 million to $2.06 billion, respectively), as well as an equally dramatic increase in sales of electronic cigarette systems. cartridge electronic cigarettes such as Juul’s. The companies sold $260 million of these cartridge systems in 2015, with sales reaching $1.969 billion in just three years.

Sale of flavored electronic cigarettes. Additionally, the FTC found that there was a significant shift in sales of tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products toward fruit, candy, and dessert flavors. For example, sales of tobacco-flavored e-cigarette cartridges fell from 47.2% of those sold or given away in 2015 to 21% in 2018, while sales of flavored “other” cartridges tripled during this period, from from 13.8% in 2015 to 42.1% in 2018.

Of these other flavored cartridges, fruit flavored cartridges were the most popular, with sales increasing 600% from 4.7% of all cartridges sold in 2015 to 29.7% in 2018. Similar increases were seen in the sale of candy and dessert flavored cartridges, as well as the sale of disposable e-cigarettes with these flavors.

The report concludes that “the dramatic increase in flavored products raises serious concerns that these products could have maintained or increased the use of e-cigarette products by young people”. He notes that a 2018 survey of high school students nationwide found that more than two-thirds of e-cigarette users used flavored products and that research shows that young people identify flavors as the main why they use e-cigarettes.

This was a significant increase from 2016, when a national survey of high school and college students found that only 31% said the availability of “flavors such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate” was the main reason they used e-cigarettes. Additionally, 81% of teens said they used flavorings the first time they tried e-cigarettes.

Increase the concentration of nicotine. The report also reveals a sharp increase in the concentration of nicotine in disposable e-cigarettes sold between 2015 and 2018. In 2015, disposable products contained an average of 25 mg of nicotine per ml of e-liquid. This concentration increased by almost 60% to 39.5 mg/ml in 2018, increasing their addictive power. Cartridge e-cigarettes contained even higher concentrations of nicotine, with the most popular products having concentrations between 51 and 61 mg/ml, while the sale of nicotine-free cartridges was negligible.

The report states that “the increased use of high nicotine e-cigarette products raises serious public health and safety concerns for users. . . including youth and young adults, who are particularly at risk for the long-term and lasting effects, including nicotine addiction, of exposing their developing brains to nicotine.

Advertising and promotion. Finally, the report provides detailed information on the advertising and promotion expenditure of domestic e-cigarette manufacturers between 2015 and 2018. The Commission found that advertising and promotion expenditure more than tripled in three years, from 197.8 million in 2015 to $643.6 million in 2018. The Commission said “increased advertising and promotion raises public health concerns” as public health authorities have concluded that the Exposure to e-cigarette advertising is one of many factors that has contributed to the recent increase in e-cigarette use among young people.

The report finds that spending on free or deeply discounted e-cigarette products more than doubled between 2015 and 2018, with some companies circumventing the FDA’s 2016 ban on free e-cigarette samples by offering products for 1 $ or a similar amount.

The report also states that price rebates paid to retailers or wholesalers to lower the price of e-cigarettes for consumers increased 14-fold between 2015 and 2018, and spending on celebrities, social media influencers, brand ambassadors and others to promote the e-cigarette. cigarette products have grown even more – almost 15 times over these three years.

The Commission’s vote approving the release of the FTC’s e-cigarette report was 4-0.

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