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Unicorns cartoons: marketing sweet and creamy e-juice to youth
  1. Robert K Jackler,
  2. Divya Ramamurthi
  1. Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Robert K Jackler, Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising, Stanford University School of Medicine, 801 Welch Road, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; jackler{at}stanford.edu

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Introduction

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned characterising flavours for cigarettes with the exception of menthol and tobacco.1 New regulations, released in May 2016, deemed electronic cigarettes to be tobacco products under the FDA's regulatory authority.2 Nicotine-containing liquid (e-juice) used in e-cigarettes is marketed in thousands of flavours. While the initial set of FDA rules did not address e-juice flavours, future FDA action may do so. The agency's determination on whether or not e-cigarettes should be subject to flavour regulations similar to those already in place for traditional combustible cigarettes will depend on evidence of differential appeal of these products to youth.

Unicorns are mythological creatures which permeate popular culture, especially children's literature (eg, The Princess and the Unicorn), television (eg, My Little Pony) and games (eg, Rainbow Unicorn).3 A search for ‘unicorn children's’ in the Amazon.com book section returned 5223 items (15 May 2016). The number one item is titled: ‘Sparkly the Unicorn: Cute Bedtime Story for Kids with a Lesson About Caring and Love’. The purpose of this article is to describe unicorn-themed flavoured e-juice and their associated advertising messaging.

Results

In analysing over 12 000 e-cigarette advertisements, we have encountered a remarkable assortment of unicorn-themed e-juice products4 ,5 (table 1). Most illustrations of unicorns show them as happy, playful and cuddly creatures. Unicorn e-juice products most often are named after the creature's supposed secretions and excretions: milk, breath, tears, blood, puke, vomit, poop, piss, spew and jizz [sic] (figures 1–4). In advertisements, the e-juice emanates from the appropriate bodily orifice of the unicorn in the form of an …

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