FDA launches new campaign aimed at teens about the cost of e-cigarettes

PHOTO: A high school student uses a vaping device near a school campus in Cambridge, Mass., April 11, 2018.PlaySteven Senne/AP, FILE
WATCH FDA launches new campaign against e-cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration released its first series of public service announcements Tuesday targeting what Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless calls “the troubling epidemic of youth vaping.”

The PSAs are part of the FDA’s “The Real Cost Youth E-cigarette Prevention Campaign,” designed to prevent young people from using e-cigarettes and potentially becoming addicted to nicotine.

The PSAs, called “Magic,” feature British street magician and social media star Julius Dein. In the ads, Dein surprises teens by turning e-cigarette pods and devices into traditional nicotine cigarettes.

The intent of “The Real Cost” campaign is to educate teens on the similarity between the two tobacco products – a connection teens don’t often make, believing that e-cigarettes are safer than nicotine cigarettes.

By using these new PSAs, in addition to social media and in-school ads, the FDA hopes to stop middle and high schoolers from using e-cigarettes or prevent them from starting.

In 2018, CDC and FDA data showed that more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, used e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Parents and health professionals are alarmed by these statistics because, like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is highly addictive.

Matthew L. Myers, the president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told ABC News, "We now know conclusively that kids who start using E- cigarettes are far more likely to go onto smoke cigarettes.”

On "Good Morning America," ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained how e-cigarettes can affect teens.

“We have to remember the developing brain [is] exquisitely sensitive to chemicals. We know nicotine is highly addictive that can result in a lack of concentration and absolutely can be a gateway… and can result in difficulty with impulse control," Ashton said. "Not something that we need more of in a teenager or a young adult."

The e-cigarette industry has come under fire for what critics say is marketing to young people.

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson from Juul addressed the company’s concerns about youth usage: "We share these concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage. We strongly advocate for T21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULPods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. Finally, we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access."