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New Found Freedom and Pervasive Marketing: A Perfect Formula for Sky-high College Campus Vaping Rates

college vaping rates surging to new highsA study published last summer in the journal Pediatrics found that college-adults exposed to in-store vape marketing could be up to twice as likely to start vaping over time. The research was based on surveys of some 2,400 college students and asked them questions about their exposure to vape and e-cigarette marketing. Exposure included anything from TV and radio to billboards, online, and while physically located inside a retail store. The students involved were not e-cigarette users at the start of the research. However, over the course of two years, some 25 percent had picked up the habit. That number rises to 30 percent when there is exposure specifically to in-store marketing.

While the airwaves may be regulated with strict FDA restrictions on what can and cannot be advertised, a customer walking through a retail store is generally (and unknowingly) walking through a marketing professional’s own personal funhouse. Everything from color schemes and logo placement to the product’s location on a shelf and level of visibility is researched, tested, coordinated, and paid for in order to ensure maximum odds of a consumer picking one product over another.

The intensity of this marketing, along with the newly found freedoms that come along with college life, is likely contributing to some of the highest proportional increases in adult drug use since researchers started studying the topic. A study released by the University of Michigan showed that student vaping of either nicotine or marijuana had doubled from 2017 to 2018. A survey of nearly 1,000 students at Butler University in Indianapolis showed that more than half had vaped nicotine with a Juul.

The students attributed their vaping to freedom and a lack of supervision as well as an overall attitude of acceptance toward vaping among other students. One student cited living in “such a bubble” that there was “no stigma on campus.” While home life may bring restrictions on what the students can and can’t do, campus life drops all barriers and surrounds them with people who are vaping just like they are.

Combine all of that with the power of finely tuned marketing and the 50 percent statistic may just be the start.