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Electronic cigarettes (or e-Cigarettes) are devices that people use to inhale nicotine vapor. They are very addictive, and despite popular belief, are not a healthy alternative to cigarettes. While less people are smoking cigarettes each generation1, e-cigarettes are still used by many young people. It is important to tackle this trend and reduce nicotine use nationwide. However, new research suggests that part of these efforts will involve looking at racial disparities as well2. In particular, it seems that E-cigarette companies may target different racial groups with their ads more than others.  

The health scientists who ran the study wanted to see how often teenagers encounter advertisements for e-cigarettes or nicotine vapes. To do this, they sent out an online survey to a nationally representative sample of 2,733 teenagers in the US. This sample was designed to show a reliable picture of teenage e-cigarette exposure in the whole country. The survey asked respondents if they had seen any advertisements for e-cigarettes or nicotine vapes in the past 3 months. The survey also asked respondents to report the type of media on which they viewed these ads, such as TV, Instagram, or YouTube. Lasty, the survey respondents reported their race, ethnicity, and history of tobacco or nicotine use.  

The study found that about 75% of participating teens had come across an e-cigarette or nicotine vape advertisement. The most common forms of e-cigarette advertising that teenagers came across were signs in stores, online ads, and social media ads. Many teenagers in the study also saw advertisements on TV, billboards, and on the radio. Teenagers of different ethnic backgrounds came across most e-cigarette advertisements at a similar rate. However, Black and Asian teenagers were each twice as likely as other teenagers to be exposed to ads on social media and TV. This disparity remained even after accounting for e-cigarette use among teens. This rules out the claim that Black and Asian teens only see more ads because they use e-cigarettes more. Instead, Black and Asian teens use e-cigarettes less than White teens3. Yet, they saw more e-cigarette ads regardless of whether they personally used e-cigarettes. This suggests that these groups may be targeted by e-cigarette advertising. These companies may be looking to expand their market to new demographics. 

While these findings are unsettling, it helps to be aware. E-cigarette use can be prevented by warning kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes early. It is also important to alert them to the fact that they are targeted by ads. It would be best if nicotine companies didn't advertise to children to begin with. There is also a push to stop nicotine companies from making products with flavors that appeal to kids. However, it will take both political and legal efforts to stop these advertising campaigns. In the meantime, it is important to teach teenagers about the dangers of e-cigarettes before the ads reach them. These efforts are even more important for ethnic minorities. You can learn more about the health risks of e-cigarettes on our website. If you or someone you know is trying to quit using nicotine products, you can find help and more information at the following links.  


Nationally Representative Sample: This is a sample that includes people of all different ages, racial or ethnic backgrounds, education levels, and regions of a country. The goal of a nationally representative sample is to get an idea of the trends that are going on in the whole country. If the sample of people surveyed has the same make-up as the country, then the sample is representative. For example, if 36% of the US population is from the South, then 36% of the people in your nationally representative sample need to be from the South.


  1. Cheng YJ, Cornelius ME, Wang TW, Homa DM. Trends and Demographic Differences in the Incidence and Mean Age of Starting to Smoke Cigarettes Regularly, National Health Interview Survey, 1997-2018. Public Health Rep. 2023;138(6):908-915. doi:10.1177/00333549221138295 
  2. Do VV, Spears CA, Ling PM, et al. Racial/ethnic disparities in exposure to e-cigarette advertising among U.S. youth. Public Health. 2024;230:89-95. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2024.02.011 
  3. Wang TW. Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018;67. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6722a3 
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