The e-Cigarette (e-cig) industry fervently claims to target only adult and primarily established smokers. As much as e-cig companies deny it, the plethora of vape juices in alcoholic or sweetened 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-cigs.
Appealing to an almost universal love for candy and sweets, e-cigs and ejuice are available in a number of childhood favorite flavors including bubble gum, gummys, Bazzoka, Kool-Aid, sweet tarts, cotton candy, gum balls, Swedish fish and cheerios. The images used in the ads are heavily borrowed from the food industry. Some e-cig companies (Mister Vapor) and vapor stores (Good Clean Vaoes) also use fairytale and anime characters to entice kids and teenagers to buy their products.
The sweet flavored additives in the vape juice help mask the bitterness of tobacco and the nicotine serves to addict teens. In addition to standard flavors, customers at retail “boutique” vape stores can enjoy the novel experience of working with a vapologist to create unique flavors by mixing any number of essences at a variety of nicotine strengths for a personalized vape. Some retail vape bars also have a “tasting bar” much like restaurants where consumers can try a variety of flavors.
Flavored cigarettes and flavored tobacco have long been held to be gateway products for children and teens. There is now a growing concern that the use of flavored e-cigs by youth could lead to them experimenting with regular cigarettes. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that rates of e-cig use among U.S. youth more than doubled from 2011 to 2012, with 10 percent of high school students admitting to having used e-cigs. Almost 76% of youth who had tried an e-cig had also tried a regular cigarette. Altogether, in 2012 more than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide had tried e-cigs1.
With the Federal Drug Administration opting not to ban flavors in e-cigs, advocates fear that flavored e-cigs will serve to entice a new generation of kids to become addicted to nicotine based products.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). E-cigarette use more than doubles among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011-2012. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0905-e-cigarette-use.html