E-cigarette companies are using the same marketing strategies that tobacco industry once used to get kids addicted to smoking. They are aggressively promoting their devices employing themes of rebellion, sex, and independence to attract the US youth, and it has alarmed the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). According to a new report by CDC, 7 in 10 American teens are exposed to e-cigarette ads through TV, print, online, and at retail outlets.

E-cigarette Ads Targeting Youth A Cause Of Worry: CDC

E-cigarette use among youth tripled in 2014: CDC

CDC warned that their aggressive marketing campaign could reverse decades of progress the US has made in preventing tobacco use among youth. Though the report does not present a direct link between advertising and e-cigarette use among teens, CDC suggested tighter control on sales of these devices to reduce minors’ access. CDC director Tom Frieden said it was like the old-time Wild West. “No rules, no regulations and heavy spending advertising the products.”

E-cigarette use among middle- and high-school students tripled in 2014. According to a CDC report released last year, 13.4% high-school students puffed on the devices compared to 9.2% for traditional cigarettes. Notably, e-cigarette ad spending skyrocketed from $6.4 million in 2011 and $115 million in 2014. But the spending declined to $34 million in the first nine months of 2015 compared to $76.5 million in the same period in 2014, according to Kantar Media.

Teens who use e-cigs more like to smoke traditional cigarettes

While traditional cigarette ads are limited to store displays, magazines, and direct mailing, the devices are still unregulated. That means manufacturers can advertise their products across most media without any restriction. Many states have enacted laws banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The US Food & Drug Administration has been slow to enact rules that would bring devices under its oversight. The FDA’s proposal to regulate the products is still under federal review.

Anti-smoking advocates have expressed concerns that rising use of e-cigs among teens could eventually lead to an increased consumption of traditional cigarettes. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, ninth-graders who used e-cigs were 2.5 times more likely to later smoke traditional cigarettes than their peers.