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Jul 29, 2014 8:23 AM by Elizabeth Hill

Critics say E-cig ads target teens and young adults

"This is not something for someone who isn't a smoker."

James "Bo" McGehee is a former pack-a-day smoker who now smokes E-cigarettes.

"When I switched to electronic cigarettes I saw that my skin looked better, I had more energy, my clothes didn't smell, my car didn't smell."

McGehee owns several Vapor Stop stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, including one here in Lafayette.

McGehee says his business aims to help people who are longtime smokers find a safer alternative to cigarettes, but McGehee's views on the ideal E-cig user appear much different than the industry.

"These fun flavors, it's obvious who they're targeting," says Tobacco Control Coordinator Rene Stansbury with Southwest Louisiana AHEC.

Right now there are no federal regulations on E-cigarettes and despite a growing number of states, including Louisiana, passing laws to ban selling E-cigs to kids, E-cigarette makers are still able to advertise freely and without regulation.

For decades big tobacco created advertisements geared toward making smoking look hip and glamorous using celebrity endorsements and even cartoon characters. The practice was eventually outlawed and strict regulations were placed on when, where and how tobacco products could be advertised. Looking at today's E-cigarette ads you'll see some similarities.

"We need to have the same laws and regulations in place for this product as we do cigarettes."

Stansbury says once kids and teens start smoking E-cigs, the fruity, sweet flavors help keep them hooked.

"They knew that when they added these flavors it made it seem real fun, real inviting and then the flavoring that's in it hides the harshness of tobacco, so they're much easier to be able to start smoking the product and the switch over to regular cigarettes."

"The old World War II veterans who've been smoking since they went into the service aren't going to use an E-cigarette because it's chocolate flavored."

Cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Mitchell Lirtzman has been a vocal opponent of big tobacco for years and says these are all too familiar tactics.

"It's highly irresponsible to encourage children and young adults to use these things. It will get them addicted."

While opponents are suspicious of the industry's methods, McGehee says his businesses try to turn away teen users. They banned minors from the store even before the state did.

"My goal is not to give somebody a new habit, but to improve their quality of life."

For more information and resources to quit smoking click here.

 

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