Makers of the popular disposable e-cigarette brand BIDI Stick unveiled nearly a dozen new flavor names as direct translations from its previous flavors, a move researchers say appears designed to subvert future restriction on the sale of flavored disposable e-cigarettes. The new “concept” flavors – vague non-characterizing descriptions on packaging that do not expressly refer to flavors – include “Marigold” (formerly “Icy Mango”), “Arctic” (“Mint Freeze”), and “Solar” (“Berry Blast”), among others.
The use of concept flavors aligns with historic tactics of modifying product characteristics, labeling or packaging to maintain sales and subvert flavor restrictions designed to deter youth use, according to research published in Tobacco Control by Truth Initiative and the National Opinion Research Center that examines the move. Concept flavors pose a challenge for enforcement of flavored tobacco restrictions, as they can make it difficult for enforcement agencies to determine whether a tobacco product meets the legal definition of a flavored tobacco product.
Disposable e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity following the product’s exemption from federal restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes, with use increasing about 1,000% (from 2.4% to 26.5%) among high school e-cigarette users and more than 400% (from 3% to 15.2%) among middle school e-cigarette users in 2020. Making up nearly a quarter of the disposable e-cigarette market in the U.S., BIDI sticks are the second highest-selling disposable e-cigarette, behind only Puff Bar.
The company’s new flavor names aren’t restricted to e-cigarettes. BIDI Vapor also launched non-tobacco-derived nicotine pouches in six non-characterizing flavors (arctic, haze, winter, solar, regal, summer). Like the strategy for their e-cigarette products, the flavor translations are provided on the company website and characterizing flavor names are currently included in smaller font on the product packaging.
Although the FDA announced in April 2021 that it is working toward issuing proposed product standards within the next year to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and ban all characterizing flavors (including menthol) in cigars, the standards don’t extend to e-cigarettes.