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Promos spark teens’ use of nicotine products, Stanford study finds

Teenagers who owned promotional items for nicotine-containing products were twice as likely as other teens to start using the products.

Teenagers who owned promotional items for nicotine-containing products such as e-cigarettes were twice as likely as other teens to start using the products, according to a new Stanford study.

The study, which appears in JAMA Network Open, explored how marketing influenced teens' willingness to try "alternative tobacco products," a category that includes e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, pipes and hookahs. At the beginning of the year-long study, none of the 757 participants had tried these products. But some would, and the researchers wanted to know why, our press release explains:

"We need to know trajectories of use of alternative tobacco products," said the study's senior author, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of pediatrics. Understanding when and why youth start using such products is important for stemming the tide of addiction to them, she said.

While teens' smoking rates have dropped in recent decades, their use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products is rising. Meanwhile, both FDA regulations and enforcement of existing rules against marketing such products to teens are lacking, Halpern-Felsher said.

At the beginning of the study, 81 participants owned marketing materials for alternative tobacco products, such as hats, t-shirts, posters, coupons and samples.

During the study, 129 participants, or 17 percent, began using alternative tobacco products but not traditional cigarettes. The risk was double for teens who owned marketing materials. The researchers hope the findings will help set stronger public health policy. Again, from our press release:

"Manufacturers say they're not marketing to teens, but teens are reporting owning these promotional items, and they're reporting use of alternative tobacco products," [said Hoda] Magid, PhD, the study's lead author.] Current restrictions and laws that make marketing cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors should be enforced for all nicotine-containing products, she added.

Photo by Nery Zarate

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