FDA’s Anti-Vape Bathroom Campaign Slammed
EXPERTS have slammed a new government campaign to place posters on the “dangers” of e-cigarettes in 10,000 high school bathrooms across America.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week a new campaign to warn teens and young people off vaping in response to a so-called “epidemic” sweeping the nation, with a new package of disturbing commercials.
But the ads placed in school washrooms as well as distributed across social media including Instagram, Facebook and Spotify, has already received a mixed response with some academics and pro-health campaigners branding the FDA's anti-vape drive as “irresponsible” and potentially ineffective.
In one of the online commercials entitled "An Epidemic Is Spreading”, a worm-like creature, representing vape entering the body, is seen spreading across the skin of teenagers like a disease.
While some experts say the strange sci-fi-style scare tactics are unlikely to work on teenagers, other reports have slammed the commercials for being created to stop a "vape epidemic", that wasn’t based on statistical fact in the first place.
E-cigarette use among high school students was 11.7 percent in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was substantially down from its high point of 16 per cent in 2015. According to the research, vaping is also less popular with teens than either alcohol or marijuana. Smoking amongst high school students, meanwhile, fell to a record low of 7.6 per cent in 2017, compared to eight per cent the previous year and 15.8 per cent in 2011.
“We are acting on very clear science that there’s an epidemic on the way,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told a gathering of “stakeholders” interested in tobacco control as the new commercials launched.
Speaking about the new ads, Mike Siegel, researcher and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told Radio Boston that while he encouraged awareness of vaping to minors, the ads were unlikely to work. He explained those teens who were vaping would likely continue, since it’s deemed rebellious - but with few health implications compared to cigarette smoking.
He said: “First of all if you look at this particular campaign, they are using the typical scare tactics which we often fall back on and we know that these scare tactics really don’t work on adolescents.
“They are going to take a look at these messages and they’re going to dismiss them because they don’t drive with what they see. When they inhale, they don’t have worms crawl through their skins….this is not something they see in their life.”
He also added: “Vaping is cool and kids understand it’s not as dangerous as smoking so it’s a way to take a risk without really, severely endangering your health so it’s not clear to me that those sort of messages will work.”
Clive Bates, director of advocacy group Counterfactual, also raised the question that perhaps the government drive and moral panic surrounding it by schools, anti-tobacco organizations and well-meaning parents was actually the very reason that teen vaping was occurring, since it made e-cigarettes more appealing to the rebellious nature of teenagers.
He asked on Twitter: “Q. Is the FDA-sponsored moral panic over @JUULvapor driving kids to vape? Are the panic-stricken statements of @FDATobacco @TobaccoFreeKids & @SGottliebFDA actually causing their 'epidemic'? What self-respecting teen could ignore these adult provocations?”
Others have also warned that the commercials along with FDA’s continued anti-vape drive, with a recent announcement that it might ban all e-cigarette flavors as well as bring forward product application deadlines for vape manufacturers, would only serve to destroy the vaping industry, which in turn would be a huge advantage to the traditional cigarette industry with more consumers potentially switching back to tobacco.
Consumer freedom research associate Guy Bentley wrote in the Washington Examiner: “Unfortunately, some children experiment with adult products. This experimentation cannot be eliminated, but it can be reduced and discouraged. Because a large number of teens use alcohol, we do not respond by returning to prohibition. Instead, schools and parents punish children for these actions and retailers rightly suffer severe penalties for selling alcohol to minors.
“Unlike alcohol, however, e-cigarettes are not a purely recreational product. They are designed to help adults quit using the most dangerous consumer product on the market— tobacco cigarettes.
“Destroying a multi-billion dollar industry that is helping millions of adults quit smoking to head off a risk to minors that is both ill-defined and unsubstantiated is the height of irresponsibility. If the FDA moves forward with this current approach, it will break the legs of an industry that is destroying cigarettes faster than any government action we've seen in recent years.”