Study Says “Tobacco-Free Nicotine” Claims May Encourage Teens to Vape

A Rutgers study says that teens are more likely to try vaping when products carry "tobacco-free nicotine" claims, than when products simply say they contain nicotine.

Published in the journal Tobacco Control, the online study asked 1,822 people aged 18 to 29 who are non regular vapers, to offer their perceptions of Puff Bar e-cigarettes with either the claim that the product contains “tobacco-free nicotine,” as it is marketed, or simply “contains nicotine.”

The compiled responses indicated that the claim may reduce young adults’ perception of health risks that the products may carry and may prompt the use of the Puff Bar brand, which comes with a tobacco-free claim, over other e-cigarette brands and types.

“The results are concerning given that little is known about the health effects of using tobacco-free nicotine products and regulations are not immediately clear,” said Julia Chen-Sankey, co-author, researcher, Center for Tobacco Studies, Rutgers University and assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health. “An increasing number of e-cigarette brands and products are marketed with ‘tobacco-free nicotine’ or similar claims like ‘non-tobacco nicotine’ or ‘synthetic nicotine‘. If such claims increase the likelihood of e-cigarette use among young people who may not otherwise use e-cigarettes as we found, regulatory actions need to be taken immediately to prevent increased use of e-cigarettes among young people.”

US vape flavour ban
Following a flavour ban set in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2020, the US witnessed a sharp drop in Juul sales and a steep increase in flavoured Puff Bar devices. “Flavourings play a role in attracting children towards tobacco products,” said Prof Richard Miech, lead investigator at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan which studied the impact of the ban on young consumers. “We noticed the growth of e-cigarette use in youths hit the brakes in 2020. Teen use of Juul declined from 2019-20 at a record rate.”

In 2020, Puff Bar became the third most used e-cigarette brand among teenagers. The brand sells disposable e-cigarettes online in a range of flavours including pink lemonade, tobacco, and strawberry, and colours (some of which light up when used). The devices contain 5%, or 50mg, of salt nicotine.