Flavour Ban Would See One in Five Vapers Return to Smoking

Vapers love nothing more than their delicious e-liquid flavours – so much so that if flavoured vape products were banned, rather than switch to tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes one in five would simply return to smoking.

That’s according to a new study carried out for the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada which made some alarming discoveries ahead of the North American country’s impending ban on flavoured vapes.

The research team analysed how frequent vapers in Canada, the UK and the U.S who use only non-tobacco flavours would react if a ban on flavoured products was implemented. The results revealed that a large number of them would either find their flavoured e-liquids elsewhere or they’d choose to go back to smoking cigarettes instead.

Clearly, neither of these scenarios are desirable, and the results of the survey should raise some serious questions about the banning of flavoured vape products moving forward.

The study at a glance
The survey made some startling revelations. Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

·82% of vapers against a flavour ban with just 13% in support (5% were unsure)
·One in five would return to smoking if flavoured vape products were banned
·One in five would simply quit vaping
·Around a quarter said they’d purchase their flavours on the blackmarket

Professor Geoffrey Fong, co-author and the principal investigator of the ITC Project, said “Our study helps to fill the gaps in evidence of the possible impact of e-cigarette flavour bans, following from other studies that have predicted how smokers respond to tobacco control policies such as tax increases and menthol bans.”

A closer look at the data
A total of 851 vapers took part in the study, and of those surveyed a whopping 82% were opposed to a flavour ban. Just 13% said they supported it, while 5% said they were unsure.

Delving deeper, the research team then asked whether those participating would continue to use e-cigarettes if a ban on flavoured vape products was put in place. Around 20% said they’d quit vaping, while 57% said they’d continue to vape. Shockingly, around one in five said they’d just go back to smoking cigarettes.

Out of those who said they’d continue vaping, around half declared they’d vape a legal flavour such as tobacco or menthol, while the rest said they’d simply find another way to purchase flavoured vapes. The revelation that so many vapers would be ready and willing to turn to the blackmarket where products are unregulated and potentially dangerous is one of the most alarming parts of the study, and for policy makers looking to implement bans it should be a real cause for concern.

Speaking about the findings, ICT research assistant and leader of the study professor Shannon Gravely said:“Our findings raise the possibility that banning some flavoured vaping products may dissuade some adult smokers from vaping, with the possibility that they would return to smoking cigarettes, which are clearly much more harmful than vaping products, given that we know that at least half of regular smokers die of a smoking-caused disease.”

Echoes of a similar study
These findings mirror the results of a similar study carried out in San Francisco. That time, researchers at Yale School of Public Health analysed the effect a ban on flavoured tobacco products including flavoured e-cigarettes has had in the Golden City, and worryingly they discovered that since the ban on vape products was introduced the number of youths who smoke has shot up.

For the study, researchers analysed data from the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance System’s 2011-2019 school district surveys. Looking at the data, the research team established that after the ban was put in place, the odds of high school students smoking conventional cigarettes in San Francisco were twice as high when compared to districts where there is no ban.

“These findings suggest a need for caution,” said Abigail Friedman, the study’s author and an assistant professor of health policy at YSPH. “While neither smoking cigarettes nor vaping nicotine are safe per se, the bulk of current evidence indicates substantially greater harms from smoking, which is responsible for nearly one in five adult deaths annually. Even if it is well-intentioned, a law that increases youth smoking could pose a threat to public health.”

So if San Francisco is anything to go by, however well-meaning the ban is, it’s clear that it’s just not working. Worse still, it looks as though bans merely prevent people from switching to the much less harmful alternative of vaping and even push others back to smoking cigarettes.

Why is this research so important? 
These studies are essential for providing a clearer picture as they challenge the false notion that flavoured products do more harm than good, and they prove that a ban is a surefire way of making some of the issues around tobacco/nicotine control even worse.

This year, Health Canada has proposed a ban on all flavoured vapes, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S has so far refused over a million marketing applications for flavoured products, indicating a ban on any e-cigarette product that isn’t tobacco or menthol flavour is likely. The reasoning behind this is that flavoured vapes are attractive to young people who end up hooked on nicotine and eventually cigarettes.

This is a common argument put forward by anti-vapers, but so far nobody has managed to provide any evidence to show it’s actually true. In fact, on the contrary, all the evidence we do have shows the use of vaping products among youths is falling, and that vape products actually help more young people quit smoking than take up the habit. 

This latest study is welcome news, as any research highlighting the damage a ban could do in terms of smoking-rates is crucial in preventing these misguided policies from taking hold. With millions of people across the world dying from smoking-related illness every year, the number of lives at stake is immeasurable. 

Thankfully, here in the UK the government is taking a sensible approach to vaping so any ban on flavoured vape products isn’t likely to come anytime soon. In fact, after consistently taking a science-based approach, the UK is arguably the most pro-vaping country on the planet so thankfully, here we get to enjoy our delicious e-liquid flavours in peace!