Science has now proven what vapers already know: adults also like sweet e-cigarette flavors. This means flavor bans from cities, states, the FDA, or anyone else may have a dangerous effect on adults trying not to smoke.
The research team in this case studied how a group of long-term, adult e-cigarette users felt about their flavor preferences, and how their favorites changed. They found that over time, preference for chocolate, candy and other sweet flavors increased, while preference for the traditional tobacco, mint, and menthol flavors decreased.
“Our data show that flavors aren’t just popular with the youth, but with adults as well,” study first author and Penn State College of Medicine associate professor Ping Du said in press materials. “Many of the participants in our study indicated that they used e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking or avoid relapse, and these flavors may be part of the reason why they end up using e-cigarettes in the long-term.”
Adults Like Flavors Too: The Study
Between 2012 and 2014, 383 adult participants between the ages of 22 and 75 completed an online e-cigarette survey on their preferred liquid flavors. They also completed a follow-up survey on the same topic between 2017 and 2019. The researchers then analyzed responses from both surveys.
The data showed stable preference for fruit flavors, with preference for tobacco, mint, and menthol flavors declining over time from 40 percent to 22 percent. Younger adults 18 to 45 years old showed the greatest preference for sweet flavors, with an increase from 16 percent at the baseline survey time and 29 percent later, at follow up.
The follow up survey also asked the participants about their anticipated reactions to possible FDA regulations such as flavor bans. About 50 percent said if their preferred, non-tobacco flavors were banned they will find a way to get them.
Takeaways From the Study
The press materials indicate that most of the study participants used tank-based e-cigarettes—which are, as yet, not banned at the federal level. However, after May 12 all manufacturers will need to submit applications to the FDA that “prove” the devices support public health. This may be a tricky process that puts many small businesses out of the running, because it is prohibitively expensive.
In addition, there are many ways to make or add your own flavors to e-liquids and countless sources of flavors online. This can increase risk from unregulated products and products from countries with different health and safety standards.
And while around half of the participants indicated they would get their flavors one way or the other, about 10 percent said they’d consider going back to smoking if their preferred flavor was banned. This means the bans could produce even more unintended—yet dangerous—consequences.
“Unauthorized flavor additions or buying products off the streets is dangerous for personal health since we don’t know what the chemicals are in those products,” Du said. “We don’t know what the long-term effects of this new policy will be, but the evidence we’ve collected says that adult, long term e-cigarette users with a preference for sweeter flavors may face health risks trying to obtain or make their preferred flavors.”