More Data Indicating The Negative Consequences of Vape Flavour Bans

In line with previous findings, a recent survey found that one in five adult vapers would switch back to smoking if vape flavours were banned.

In a recent survey conducted by Red C Research and Marketing in Ireland, one in five ex-smokers who had switched to vaping, said they were likely to revert back to smoking if flavoured vapes were banned. In fact, 75% of the participants said that in their opinion banning flavours was likely to lead to an increase in youth smoking.
As of last December, in Ireland it has been illegal to sell nicotine-containing vapes to individuals under 18 years old. Yet despite these age restrictions, plans for additional limits on the flavours permitted for sale are underway.

Commissioned by Respect Vapers, a group advocating for vaping as a smoking cessation tool, the survey found that 90% of vapers also believe a ban on flavours could fuel a black market for the products. This argument has been consistently backed both by experts in the field, as well as by real-world data in places where such bans have been set already.

Nearly half of the respondents stated they would seek flavoured products from sources outside of Ireland if such a ban were implemented, and 71% expressed concerns that smokers would be less inclined to switch to vaping for smoking cessation. Meanwhile, about 37% of respondents would support a ban on flavours that appeal specifically to younger individuals, such as beverage, energy drink-style, candy, or dessert flavours.

In line with previous findings, an overwhelming majority of refillable vapes’ users (constituting more than half of all vapers) credited flavours with helping them quit smoking altogether. One in five vapers indicated they would revert back to smoking if flavours were banned, while almost two-thirds of dual users (smokers and vapers) stated they would just stick to smoking cigarettes. In fact, 98% of ex-smokers surveyed credited vaping with aiding their smoking cessation efforts, with 85% reporting a reduction in the amount of cigarettes smoked.

Why are vape flavours important?
On discussing vape flavour bans with smoking cessation expert Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, the physician explained that vape flavours are also beneficial in helping former smokers slowly dissociate themselves from tobacco. “In my experience many smokers switching to vaping start with tobacco flavour as it is familiar, but most to switch to other flavours later. Other flavours are more enjoyable, remind them less of smoking.”

He reiterated that the availability of flavours is linked to higher smoking cessation rates. “For some, flavours are an important incentive to switch. They are also associated with higher quit rates, greater enjoyment and reduced relapse. Restricting flavours leads to increased smoking for adults and youth, increased black market purchases and workarounds such as home mixing.

Overall, flavours are important and a reasonable range should be available. But we should

– Prohibit descriptive flavour names, images and packaging that specifically appeal to youth eg ‘dragon vomit’
– Prohibit flavours found to have a material risk to health”

To ban or not to ban? The answer is more complex than most think
Sharing the same sentiment, tobacco harm reduction expert David Sweanor recently emphasized the importance of systematically considering the possible risks of such bans. “It is hard to think of any other public health measure [referring to vape flavour bans] that would have as dramatic an impact and can be so easily achieved as getting people to cease cigarette smoking. Any barriers put in their way should be carefully weighed in terms of the additional premature deaths that will result.

If a politician initially succumbs to sloganeering about ‘youth’ and thinks draconian market interventions that make vaping a less viable alternative to cigarette smoking might protect youth, they should do a proper policy analysis. That means looking at the risk of diverting of youth to cigarette use, the impact of losing parents and grandparents to death and disability due to continued smoking, the exposure of those youth to unnecessary second-hand smoke and house fires, and the continued family financial strain from cigarette purchases.”

In line with Sweanor’s arguments, studies have consistently shown how counterproductive such measures can be. In 2020 Florida’s state legislature passed a bill aimed at banning vape flavours. However, the bill was ultimately rejected following concerns raised by public health experts, who argued that the bill would not only harm the vaping industry but would also deprive smokers of safer alternatives, making it harder for them to quit cigarettes and dissuading others from switching.

In his veto message, Governor DeSantis had explained that although the bill was initially intended to raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, it effectively prohibited tobacco-free vaping flavours used by many Floridians as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Subsequent data had confirmed that the Governor had taken the right decision.

Former smokers who switch to flavoured vapes are more likely to quit smoking
Research has shown that youth vaping rates in Florida are declining, and more smokers are quitting using vapes than any other nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Recent research from the Yale School of Public Health revealed that adult vapers who use flavours are more likely to quit smoking than those who use tobacco flavours. “Our youth are important, and policies to protect their wellbeing deserve to be thoughtful rather than knee-jerk,” concluded Sweanor.