New research shows once again that adults prefer various flavours over being restricted to tobacco flavourings. The debates around banning vape flavours have been ongoing for years, with politicians and public health experts weighing in on both sides, particularly in the United States, Europe, and Canada. These debates have significant implications for tobacco harm reduction (THR), as flavoured vapes are often favoured by smokers trying to quit smoking.
It is time to put an end to these debates and focus on evidence-based policies that protect public health while also preserving the benefits of THR. Policymakers should consider the available research on flavoured vaping products and their potential benefits and risks.
A recent study has shed more light on the patterns of flavoured vape use among adult vapers in the United States. The study, which surveyed 69,233 participants, found that non-tobacco flavours were the most popular choices among vape users. In fact, only 2.1% of participants reported tobacco as the single most often used flavour. The most popular flavours at vape use initiation were fruits (82.8%), followed by dessert/pastry/bakery (68.6%), and candy/chocolate/sweets (52.2%).
Interestingly, the study also found that these flavours were considered the most helpful for quitting smoking, with fruit being the most prevalent flavour at the time of smoking cessation (83.3%). Tobacco flavour use prevalence was low and was further reduced over time, with only 7.7% of participants reporting its use at the time of the survey.
The study’s authors suggest that regulators should take into consideration the flavour choices of adult consumers, especially those who quit smoking, when preparing legislation on flavoured vapes. This study provides further evidence that adults have preferences over flavours too, and that flavour options should not be limited in the regulation of vapes.
The findings are particularly relevant as flavoured vapes remain a controversial topic worldwide, with many regulators planning or already implementing restrictions because of their appeal to children and underaged users. The findings suggest that policymakers need to consider the preferences of adult vapers when deciding on vape flavour regulations.
Banning vape flavours has become a worrying trend among policy makers due to concerns over the use of vapes among young people. Some politicians believe that banning the flavours will help reduce youth vaping rates, whilst they forget and penalise adult smokers and ex-smokers, who use vapes to switch from more harmful cigarettes. Some politicians also argue that banning flavoured vapes will help prevent non-smokers, particularly young people, from becoming addicted to nicotine. But what do those politicians say about driving users back to smoking, which is more harmful to health?
Several studies already confirm that flavours are an important part of the appeal of vaping for adult smokers, and that they make the products attractive as an alternative to less enjoyable smoking. Studies have shown that adults who vape flavoured vapes are more likely to quit smoking than those who use tobacco flavoured vapes. There is a simple logic behind it, as one study found, that by not reminding vapers of the taste of tobacco, flavours are more likely to keep people off traditional cigarettes.
Secondly, banning flavours will hit consumers trying to quit smoking the most, which goes against the goals of any public health authority. A flavour ban would disproportionately and negatively affect adults who are trying to quit smoking, potentially pushing them back to traditional cigarettes or the black market. In fact, studies have shown that flavour bans push 5 out of 10 vapers back to smoking or the black market.
Thirdly, flavour bans could lead to the proliferation of the black market for vapes and nicotine products. An illicit market with no quality or age controls would be much riskier than a regulated market with strict standards. They provide no revenue for the public pot, and take investment away from local businesses. And, finally, according to a study, 45% of vapers would find a way to get their banned flavour on the black market or take up smoking again.
Therefore, policymakers should take into account the potential negative consequences of flavour bans and consider alternative measures to protect public health while preserving the benefits of vaping.