Thankfully for us in the UK there is no impending ban on the flavoured e-liquids we all use. However, as we've seen in the USA recently it doesn't take much for such things to be called for, and in some cases acted upon.
At first the “anti-vapers” targets were packaging 'aimed at children', that was followed by headlines about 'kiddie flavours' like gummy bears and fruit chewy sweets, and now it's quickly got to the point where anything other than tobacco flavours in plain packaging are considered 'child-friendly' by some.
What has triggered youth vaping?
The use of vapour products by young people in the USA over the last few years has, in my opinion, nothing to do with flavoured e-liquids. It started as a 'cloud blowing' fad where teenagers were using zero nicotine e-liquids to emulate the 'vape tricks' and images they saw on social media sites. Left alone, I think that fad would have passed fairly quickly with no addiction and no real harm. You can only say 'sick clouds bro' so many times before it starts sounding ridiculous and you decide to spend your time and money on something else.
The other notable and possibly more serious trend in the US has been the rise of young, teenage, non-smokers using JUUL e-cigarettes and it's 50mg pods. The JUUL pods are supposed to contain enough nicotine to stop cravings for a smoker for a whole day, but some youths have been vaping them in a short period for a 'nicotine buzz.' Why anyone would find that a pleasurable experience I don't know, as smokers we all experienced that dizziness when we had to finish our cigarette in a short time, and I'm pretty sure most of us didn't enjoy it. But that isn't the point I'm really wanting to make, the point is that in both these cases, it wasn't the flavours that were driving these youth vaping fads or their growth. So, banning flavoured e-liquids will solve nothing.
Why are flavoured e-liquids important?
What is clear to me is that having a wide variety of flavours available is very important to adult smokers and ex-smokers. There has been many surveys showing that tobacco flavours are some of the least popular among ex-smokers and there is no real evidence to suggest that starting vaping with a realistic tobacco flavour will help smokers transition to vapour products any easier. That's not to say tobacco flavours aren't important too for people that do like them. The key is that we have that choice and as many options as possible are available.
Usually when people first decide to quit smoking and start vaping they will fall into one of three camps:
·the first will be looking for a taste that can replicate the taste of their tobacco as closely as possible;
·the second will be looking for something as far away from the taste of their cigarette as possible; and
·the third, which was me, are looking for a tobacco flavour that tasted better than their tobacco.
It was the e-liquids with tobacco flavours mixed with coconut, honey, ginger and caramel that helped me so much to quit smoking. I can remember saying to a friend “It's like smoking but it tastes better” just a few weeks after switching. Even now as I approach my 4th year smoke free those are still the flavours I enjoy the most, not only tobacco flavours but also dark biscuit, nutty and spicy flavours without the tobacco elements.
My brother in-law, who's just passed his first year without a cigarette, is the complete opposite and enjoys sweeter, lighter flavours like fruit creams and sodas.
Flavoured e-liquids help people stop smoking!
Who decides which of these flavours are appropriate, who is the arbiter of what flavours adults should enjoy? Adults enjoy flavours of all kinds and the fact that vapour products can taste much nicer than a cigarette is one of the important and instant benefits that smokers can see in switching from cigarettes to vaping.
The argument against flavoured e-cigarettes seems to basically be “We should make them taste horrible, so teenagers aren't tempted to start vaping”. But this completely ignores one of the main reasons that vapour products have been so successful in helping millions of people quit smoking!
While it might be true that non-tobacco flavours could be appealing to kids, it's pretty obvious why. It's the same reason that fruit flavoured alcohol would appeal more than beer tasting alcohol to kids. But we don’t ban fruit flavoured alcohol, do we?
It's also the same reason that the older a vaper is, the more likely they are to be found vaping a tobacco flavour. The longer we smoked for, the more entrenched our smoking habit was, the more familiar we are with the taste and nuances of tobacco flavours. That said, tobacco flavours are still less popular than fruit flavours for people of all ages. If we want to continue to help people stop smoking using e-cigarettes and vapour products, then cutting out the most popular flavours would seem to be extremely counterproductive to that goal.
The attacks on flavoured vapour products feels, to me, more likely a proxy attack on vaping itself. A ban on flavours of any kind could destroy manufacturers, shops and online retailers. And more importantly make vaping a far less effective tool in combating smoking deaths and illness.
I'd like to think that here in the UK with our largely supportive health and government bodies that this is understood. But I'm not complacent about it because many smokers and non-vapers I speak to seem to really struggle to understand why we enjoy them and why they were so important to us in quitting smoking in the first place. Hopefully this blog has helped to explain this misunderstanding and the importance of flavoured e-liquids and vapour products.