9 of the Strategies Big Tobacco Used to Target Kids with E-Cigarettes

Cigarette companies have always recognized youth as their “replacement generation” and have employed a myriad of strategies and tactics to target, attract and addict them to tobacco products. Right from the start, e-cigarette companies took their tactics straight from Big Tobacco’s playbook.

Data from the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) show more than two million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes in 2023, the most common form of tobacco use among youth in the U.S.1 The frequency of use by teens is especially alarming with nearly 40% of high school students who vape doing so regularly (20 or more of the past 30 days), and close to 30% are vaping daily.2 This regular use underscores how addicted youth have become to e-cigarettes.

1. Groundhog Day!

E-cigarette companies used  the same tactics to hook youth on e-cigarettes that they used to hook kids on cigarettes.*


2. Flavors

Flavored e-cigarette use among kids remains extremely high. Almost 90% of middle and high school students who vape reported using flavored e-cigarettes, with the top four flavors being fruit, candy/dessert/other sweets, mint and menthol. Kids continue to follow the available e-cigarette flavors; with the top one being fruit at 63% and close to 20% of youth e-cigarette users report using menthol e-cigarettes.3

3. All the ads!

Over 75% of students in 2022 reported seeing e-cigarette ads on TV, and a variety of other mediums especially on the internet.*4

4. Corporate Sponsorships

Like the tobacco companies before them, e-cigarette companies have used corporate sponsorships, like auto racing, to showcase their companies and brands.*

5. Eat your vegetables

E-cigarette companies have falsely advertised that their products are less harmful, encouraging people to try their product, which is anything but good for you.

6. Money Money Money

The industry used discounts and coupons to get kids to try e-cigarettes, but in true 21st century fashion, they reached out directly through social media to get to kids.*


7. Who is that?

Online vendors and sales easily allowed youth to pose as adults to access e-cigarettes.

8. It’s hidden in plain sight…

E-cigarettes that look like flash drives (Juul and look-a-like products) have been difficult for teachers and parents to notice. This has allowed use in school and even in class and has kept youth e-cigarette use at alarming levels.

9. They Look Like Toys?!?!

Not only are e-cigarette products designed to be discrete, they now look like everyday items such as children’s toys. FDA recently started to crack down on a number of these products, see if you recognize anything from your childhood

For more information on youth and e-cigarettes, check out the Surgeon General’s website on e-cigarette use among youth.

*Images courtesy of TrinketsAndTrash.org.

  1. Birdsey J, Cornelius M, Jamal A, et al. Tobacco Product Use Among U.S. Middle and High School Students — National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2023. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:1173–1182.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Gentzke AS, Wang TW, Cornelius M, Park-Lee E, Ren C, Sawdey MD, Cullen KA, Loretan C, Jamal A, Homa DM. Tobacco Product Use and Associated Factors Among Middle and High School Students - National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2022 Mar 11;71(5):1-29.

Page last updated: June 7, 2024