“What About the Children” Part 3: The Allure of Flavors
Welcome back to our Knowledge is Power blog series. Today we are discussing the 3rd and final element in the “What About the Children” argument surrounding e-cigarettes. Saturday we looked at advertising and sales to minors, and yesterday we looked at e-liquid safety. If you haven’t had a chance, we encourage you to look at those aspects of this discussion as well. Today we are tackling the subject of the allure of flavors when it comes to e-juice and children.
The World Health Organization (WHO)1 submitted a request to the FDA for regulation of e-cigs in Report on Regulation of E-Cigarettes which states “The regulations outlined in the report include a ban on e-cigarettes with fruit, candy-like and alcohol-drink flavours until it can be proven that they are not attractive to children and adolescents.” Additionally, the American Heart Association (AHA)2 published a policy statement regarding E-Cigarettes where they stated “Increasingly, there is appealing flavors (eg, chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla) to make e-cigarettes especially more attractive and appealing to children and adolescents.” The sense that flavors are being created for the sole purpose of luring children to e-cigarettes is further identified by Stanford School of Medicine3 article Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising in which they stated “As much as e-cigarette manufacturers deny it, the plethora of vape juices for e-cigarettes with sweet flavors and sugary names serve to make these products appealing to children and teenagers who are curious to experiment with tobacco products and are taken in by false notions of the ‘safe nature’ of e-cigarettes. The sweet flavored essences help mask the bitterness of tobacco, and the nicotine serves to addict teens.” Based on these articles, it appears that the purpose of these candy and drink flavors is to attract underage youth to purchasing e-cigarettes and becoming addicted to nicotine. If that were the case, it would certainly be shameful. However, is that the full story?
NY Daily News4 article Bill would ban sale of flavored e-cigarettes tells us “Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens) will introduce legislation to ban the fruity flavors, saying they entice kids to start puffing on the devices. ‘These flavors are direct marketing to children’ Constantinides said. ‘They appeal to children, and we’re taking them out of that market.” This seems to support the arguments listed in the articles above; however, the NY Daily News goes on to say “The American Vaping Association, a pro-electronic cigarette group, hit the bill. ‘Studies show that e-cigarettes, particularly flavored kinds, are effective at helping smokers move away from combustible cigarettes,’ said president Gregory Conley. ‘If Constantinides’ bill becomes law, it will take away a valuable tool for New Yorkers looking to kick the habit.” This second part of the article is just starting to touch on the other side of the story. The Daily News5 article For Public Health, let them vape cake took this a step further by saying “The flavors that offend Constantinides clearly appeal to adults who switch from smoking to vaping. In a survey conducted by E-cigarette Forum last summer, ¾ of adult vapers favored flavor categories other than tobacco, including fruit (31%), bakery/dessert (19%) and savory/spice (5%). Two-thirds of the ex-smokers in the E-Cigarette Forum survey said non-tobacco flavors were important in helping them quit. Survey data reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last December likewise indicate that flavor variety is important in quitting.” This article shows that not only are adults drawn to these e-cigarette flavors but that they are assisting in the success of people who are attempting to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Looking at both sides of the argument, yes, candy flavors appeal to children, but that doesn’t mean they are not appealing to adults and an asset in an attempt to switch from smoking to vaping. Forbes6 article The Folly of Child-Proofing the World addresses this dilemma:
“Although flavored e-cigarettes are intended for adults, appeal to adults, and can be legally sold only to adults, the prohibitionists argue that they cannot be tolerated because they also appeal to minors. The same rationale has been offered for bans on flavored tobacco products and sweet malt beverages. This argument, although couched in the language of moderate and sensible regulation, should be a non-starter in a free society, because it reduces adults to the level of children. Constantinides equates making a product that could appeal to minors with direct marketing to children. I doubt that Constantinides has any evidence aside from his own intuition, to back up his claim that e-cigarette companies are targeting children. But one thing is clear: Whether or not they appeal to minors, the flavors that offend him appeal to adults who switch from smoking to vaping.”
To summarize, it is true that children like candy flavors. However, that does not mean that all products created in these flavors are for the purpose of marketing to children. Grown-ups like candy and desserts too. We’re just thinking about calories, sugar, the effect on our teeth, and all the other grown-up things that tend to put a damper on enjoying the sweeter things in life. Does that mean that creating something that provides all the goodness of the flavor without all the grow-up reasons to avoid it is trying to seduce children to addiction? Based on the information above, there is evidence that these flavors are a contributing factor in ex-smokers utilizing e-cigarettes to quit using tobacco. Forbes6 article goes on to say “Constantinides and his allies are prepared to sacrifice the interests, and potentially the lives, of verifiably real adults for the sake of hypothetical teenagers. This is where the logic of regulating ‘for the children’ leads. Attempts to child-proof the world do not necessarily make kids any safer, but they always make adults less free.”
As always, I encourage everyone to educate themselves. Read the studies and information listed in the references below, and learn more about the reality and misconceptions surrounding the issue of the allure of e-juice and flavors. Come back next week when we look at the e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking. Until then, we look forward to your questions and comments. Vape on!
Written by: Michelle Harnden
- WHO Report on Regulation of E-Cigarettes
- AHA E-Cigarette Policy Statement
- Stanford School of Medicine Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising
- NY Daily News “Bill would ban sale of flavored e-cigarettes”
- Daily News “For Public Health, let them vape cake”
- Forbes “Flavored E-Cigarettes & the Folly of Child-Proofing the World”