In a study recently published in “Nicotine & Tobacco Research”, is dispelling the misconception that electronic cigarettes and their flavors, are going to get teenage non-smokers to start vaping and get addicted to nicotine. There are lots of vaping critics, that often claim that electronic cigarettes are a danger to our teens, the point they are trying to make is that the devices are cool and the flavors would draw the teens into dangerous nicotine addiction. The study, however, is proving that there is no reason to fear this.
Researchers in this study, surveyed 216 teens that don’t smoke, in the age range 13-17, and 432 adult tobacco smokers. The questions the participants got was how interested they was in a variety of electronic cigarette flavors. Those that participated in the survey, was asked to rate how interested they were on a scale from 0 to 10, regarding their desire to use electronic cigarettes as well as samples of the bestseller flavors.
Saul Shiffman is a professor of psycology at the University of Pittsburgh and leading author of this study. He says that “Flavors just didn’t seem to matter to these non-smoking teens” said Shiffman of the results of the survey. It was the older tobacco smoking, that had their interest peaked the most, and specifically those that had already tried electronic cigarettes.
All the adult users, even the ones who never had tried an e-cigarette in the past, had a much higher interest than any of the non-smoking teens. They tested popular flavors like vanilla bean, double espresse and raspberry, the teens weren’t interested at all.
Shiffman has high hopes that these results and other that show the same, will let the electronic cigarettes be used to their full potential, instead of being overregulated by the government, based on groundless preconceptions, rather than fact. “Concerns about initiation of e-cigarette use by nonsmoking teens have focused on the expected and assumed appeal of flavors. It is important to replace assumptions with data.” Shiffman’s findings are a good indicator of the reality, not the assumptions, of the appeal and attraction of the e-cigarette to the teens. “Our study shows that flavor descriptors, even those expected to appeal to youth, do not do so.” Shiffman continues, “This is reassuring because nonsmoking teens would gain no health benefit from using e-cigarettes, since they aren’t smokers. In contrast, adult smokers could dramatically reduce health risks by switching from tobacco cigarette smoking to electronic cigarette use.”
We are encouraged by these findings, as other recent studies seem to be focusing on the rise of e-cigarette use among teens and adolescents. The CDC recently released a statement on the findings of their annual youth smoking survey. Their study suggested that 4.5% of high school aged teenagers had used an e-cigarette product at some point within the last month; a figure that was up from 1.5% in 2011. Findings like these have heavily fueled the fire from critics of electronic cigarettes, who believe that the increase in ecig use by teens, is because of previously non-smokers have been attracted to the child friendly flavors like bubble gum or gummy bear.
What the critics fail to realize, however, is that while electronic cigarette use among teens is up, the use of regular cigarettes among teens has gone down. Of course, that could just be a coincidence, but it’s highly unlikely. In addition, with sales of e-cigarettes growing at a rate of approximately 25% each year, and this growth rate expected to continue until 2018, the use is clearly up among adults as well. It is only natural that the teen population would mimic similar behavior as that of the adult world too. Believing that the hike in youth e-cigarette use is due to the flavors would simply be a short sighted analysis of the facts at hand.
As new research regarding e-cigarettes seems to be released daily, it is important to remain aware of the true facts and not fall prey to convenient interpretations of them. The recent survey is another great example of how with more research we can get to the bottom of what really draws people to e-cigarettes.
However most vapers don’t need a scientific study, they already know why they pick up their e-cigarettes to get their nicotine satisfaction and you can be sure the health benefit is always one of the main reasons. Everyone knows how much safer e-cigarettes are than traditional smoke and tar laden cigarettes. That being said no one wants anyone to start vaping just to start vaping. While there are non-nicotine vaping options, the reality is what e-cigarettes really offer is a healthier way to receive nicotine than combustible tobacco, straight and simple. That is what makes someone decide to become a vaper, not coconut or cotton candy flavors.
Dr. Shiffman agrees that e-cigarettes have their advantages: “For adult smokers of combustible tobacco cigarettes, switching completely to e-cigarettes should lead to substantial health benefits.” That is why Dr. Shiffman believes we should continue to conduct these surveys, to ensure that there are not flavors that are available that do for some reason appeal to the youth population, “Knowledge about which flavors appeal most to adult smokers without appealing to nonsmoking teens presents an opportunity to greatly reduce health risks among adult smokers without increasing the risks for youth.”
It seems like there is little attraction for non-smokers to pick up vaping, no matter what sugar-coated flavor you wrap around it. The sooner the critics realize this, the sooner it will be obvious to them what vapers already know: e-cigarettes are not a gateway into an addiction, they are are a way out.