Etsy, a Democrat representing Danbury and Connecticut’s 5th District, claimed that these liquids’ colourful packages and flavours are nothing but part of strategy by big tobacco companies to get kids hooked on nicotine, referring to e-cigarettes as an “entry point” in their addiction. “The industry is clearly targeting youth with these candy flavors and psychedelic colors”, she stated.

The “gateway” theory mentioned once again

The lawmakers’ plea to ban flavoured e-liquids follows a study by Yale University claiming that 40 percent of the students at Connecticut middle and high school who had tried vaping, did so as they were attracted by the flavours.

The theory that vaping is a “gateway” that leads adolescents to smoking cigarettes has been circulating for a while, however several studies have been carried out that disprove this claim. A recent report has even found that the majority of young adults who vaporize do so in a social context using nicotine-free e-liquids, concluding that most of them have no interest in consuming nicotine, and do not associate vaping with smoking at all.

Whilst focusing on minors, are adult smokers being disregarded?

The vaping industry’s response to the politician’s plea was that it has been taking every precaution to make e-cigarettes inaccessible for children. One must point out that even though in Connecticut and some other states, there was already an existing ban in regards to selling vaping products to minors, the authorities have enforced this in all states earlier this month, making penalties much harsher. The vaping industry is already facing several harsh regulations in the US, hence smokers who wish to use vaping as a cessation tool are already finding it hard to have access to these products.

Etsy’s preceding bill requiring child-proof packaging on liquid nicotine containers has been  implemented recently. Together with Blumenthal, she stated that if the FDA does not take action in enforcing the aforementioned proposed ban in a timely manner they will take further action by pushing forward for another legislation.

Are fun flavours necessary?

In line with the several studies that prove the benefits of switching from tobacco smoking to vaping, the congresswoman stated that she is supportive of smokers who wish to make the switch in order to quit the deadly habit. However she thinks that “there is no reason to have 7,000 flavors such as blueberry pie, cotton candy or gummy bears”, adding that adults who are looking to vaping as a smoking substitute would not go for such flavours.

However, Dr Eric Soule, a researcher from the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products of the Department of Psychology of Virginia Commonwealth University, disagrees with the above.  In a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health, the researcher and his co-authors found that the diverse array of flavours are one of the attracting factors that encourage smoking adults to make the switch to vaping.

The bigger picture

In addition to all the ongoing debates, “If flavours attracted young people to vaping rather than smoking, that would be a public health win”, pointed out Clive Bates, British consultant and former director of the Action of Smoking and Health (ASH). Bates’s sentiment goes inline with that of many health experts such as that of Dr David Levy, a popular scientist and professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center who found that the use of e-cigarettes leads to a drop of 21% in smoking associated deaths, and a 20% percent gain in life years.

Clive Bates: “Disinformation from anti-vaping activists more harmful than from tobacco industry”