The June 2 edition of the journal Pediatrics features a study of e-cigarette advertising on television from 2011 to 2013. The research, led by Jennifer Duke of RTI International in North Carolina, found that exposure among youth (12-17 years old) to television ads for e-cigs increased 256 percent over that period.

The author casts the industry as villain: “It appears that youth are being exposed to a sustained level of marketing about the benefits of e-cigarettes.” ABC News was less subtle, with a piece titled: “E-cigarette TV ads target kids.”

IDuke Fig 1n fact, the results in Figure 1 of the study (left), which were not fully described by the authors, show that the advertisements’ effects were mainly on adults. The authors report exposure to e-cig ads in terms of target rating points (TRPs), a standard unit of measurement for the proportion of people exposed to an ad and its frequency.

Duke and colleagues report that exposure of 12-to-17-year-olds to e-cig advertising peaked in the second quarter 2013 at 347 TRPs. Young adults (18-to-24 years old), for whom purchase of e-cigarettes is legal almost everywhere, had peak exposure of 611 TRPs in 2013, indicating much higher exposure than youth.

The authors fail to note that older adults had far higher peak levels of exposure to e-cig ads. My table contains the estimated peak TRPs for each age group in Figure 1.

Peak exposure to e-cigarette television advertising (TRPs) by age groups in Q2 2013
Age Group (years) Population (millions) Peak Exposure (TRPs)
12-17 24 347
18-24 30 611
55-34 41 611
35-54 86 820
55+ 77 850

This data shows that 234 million adults 18 years or older were the primary recipients of e-cigarette advertising.

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