The George Institute for Global Health, in a cross-sectional online survey on 25th October, revealed an alarming rate of young people’s exposure to e-cigarette advertising in the popular media in countries like India, China, Australia, and the United Kingdom, the company said in a press statement.
The survey assessed demographic characteristics, e-cigarette and tobacco use, the number of friends and family members who vape, and exposure to multiple forms of e-cigarette advertising. These included various modes of media exposure such as television, print, radio, and social media, the statement from the company highlighted.
The company's statement highlighted that 85 per cent of respondents who had heard of e-cigarettes reported being exposed to e-cigarette advertising on at least one type of media platform. The average number of types of media to which the respondents were exposed was five, the company further said.
"Despite advertising restrictions in place in all four countries, large majorities of young people reported being exposed to e-cigarette advertising. Social media and advertising in and around vape shops and other retailers appear to be key exposure locations. Urgent attention is needed to address these forms of exposure given their apparent association with e-cigarette use," Simone Pettigrew, The George Institute for Global Health, wrote.
The World Health Organization recommends banning all forms of e-cigarette advertising, promotion, and sponsorship. The George Institute for Global Health, too, considers the use of e-cigarettes by children, adolescents, and young adults a substantial public health concern. These e-cigarettes not only increase exposure to nicotine, leading to a greater risk of addiction.
The company further highlighted that the researchers found that exposure to e-cigarette ads can change people's perception of risk and boost their interest, leading to increased usage. The 15-minute online survey included 1000 people aged 15-30 from India, China, Australia, and the UK.
The company further stated that they assessed e-cigarette ad exposure among those aware of e-cigarettes through multiple questions. Social media was the primary online exposure, while real-life exposure occurred mainly at vape shops, supermarkets, petrol stations, and corner stores. Descriptive analysis was done on those aware of e-cigarettes, and logistic regression identified usage factors.
Current users, when compared to former users and non-users, showed higher exposure to e-cigarette ads, potentially worsening their addiction. The George Institute found that even after accounting for demographic, social, and tobacco-related factors associated with e-cigarette use, the number of media channels through which people encountered e-cigarette ads was linked to e-cigarette use. This aligns with prior research demonstrating a connection between exposure to e-cigarette ads and susceptibility to using such products, the company added.
This study underscores the need for stricter enforcement of advertising regulations across all media platforms, the company said.