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Banning Flavored Vapes Can Get Teens Quitting

FRIDAY, May 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- While public health officials have expressed concerns about teens vaping, a new study suggests getting more to quit may be simple.

Eliminating flavored e-cigarettes may reduce the use of vapes altogether in teens and young adults, the research found.

“The restriction of the availability for certain e-cigarette e-liquid flavors has been considered by various regulatory agencies,” said senior author Alayna Tackett, of the Center for Tobacco Research at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

“Our team was interested in surveying youth and young adults to understand their thoughts on what choices they might make should regulatory policies only allow menthol and/or tobacco flavors in e-cigarette e-liquid products," she said in a university news release.

For the nationwide study, the researchers surveyed more than 1,400 people between 14 and 21 years of age who had used e-cigarettes at least once per day in preceding month.

They were asked which flavors they typically use from a list that included tobacco, menthol, cool mint, fruit ice and fruit/sweet and what they would do if U.S. federal law limited flavors to tobacco and menthol.

If sweet flavors were banned, 39% of respondents said they would stop using e-cigarettes. That jumped to 71% if tobacco were the only option.

Respondents who preferred flavors with cooling additives, such as fruit ice, were more likely to say they would quit if tobacco were the only flavor available, compared to menthol flavor users. This shows an important distinction between these groups, Tackett said.

“In this sample of adolescents and young adults, it appears that non-tobacco flavors may be important for their interest in and continued use of e-cigarettes,” Tackett said.

Researchers, of course, don’t know if respondents would actually follow through with this behavior or if they would start using other tobacco products.

Future research could examine this more in places that already restrict flavors or a more representative sample could be studied. The sample in this study was not representative of the population as a whole; it was mostly white and female.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Preventing young people from vaping is a crucial public health goal, said Tackett, who also pointed to the potential impact of e-cigarette regulation on adult smokers who vape as an alternative to quitting tobacco completely.

“Many adults prefer using non-tobacco flavors to switch from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” Tackett said. “Flavor restriction policies should consider the best ways to protect public health while also supporting adults who are interested in choosing potentially less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes.”

The findings were published online May 3 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

More information

The American Lung Association has more on the impact of e-cigarettes on the lungs.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, May 4, 2023

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