Colorful with candy flavor: children as target group? E-cigarette association outraged by accusation

Colorful with candy flavor
Children as target group? E-cigarette association outraged by accusation

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The WHO accuses the tobacco industry of deliberately making children dependent on e-cigarettes. The sweet flavors and colorful marketing are the main criticisms. The association is now fighting back: neither the advertising nor cigarettes with chewing gum flavor are intended for minors.

The German Association of E-Cigarette Trade (VdeH) is defending itself against criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO) that it wants to use tricks to get children addicted as young as possible. In 2019, the association committed to refraining from advertising with cartoon characters or similar motifs that could arouse the interest of children and young people, the association explained. In a report, the WHO had accused the industry of marketing e-cigarettes in bright colors and with popular cartoon characters almost like toys. Among the 16,000 flavors are ones like chewing gum, candy or vanilla ice cream, which are clearly aimed at children.

The VdeH, on the other hand, emphasized that its target group were adults who wanted to reduce or completely stop their tobacco consumption. The industry also targets adults with flavors such as chewing gum. They have “a preference for fruity and sweet flavors.”

The association admitted that influencers were promoting e-cigarettes despite an advertising ban in Germany. The association clearly distanced itself from this advertising and had already taken legal action against actors who had not complied with the law. “We are calling for stronger enforcement of the advertising ban by the authorities and platform operators.” The association also criticized the type of government regulation. This has led to a large black market. It is assumed that half of all e-cigarettes are sold outside of specialist retailers “and therefore often outside of any compliance.”

WHO: Situation in Europe particularly worrying

According to the WHO, an estimated 37 million teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide already consume tobacco. This includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco and snuff. In addition, millions use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but they do contain nicotine. Because e-cigarettes are often expensive, according to the WHO, many people switch to tobacco products when their money is tight. “The industry wants to get children addicted as young as possible so that it has lifelong consumers,” said Given Kapolyo, who organizes young people in Zambia who educate their own youth groups about harmful nicotine consumption.

According to the WHO department head responsible, Rüdiger Krech, the situation in the WHO European region, which includes more than 50 countries as far afield as Turkmenistan and Israel, is particularly worrying. Sales restrictions are of little use if young people can order the products online and the authorities do not put a stop to this.

The WHO is urging countries to take more restrictive measures on the use of tobacco and other nicotine products, including banning flavoured e-cigarettes, banning advertising, increasing taxes and 100 per cent indoor smoking bans.

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