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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: -1°C

Teen vapers are more likely to use sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes than adult vapers, study finds

The US Food and Drug Administration has declared youth e-cigarette use as an epidemic in the country.

TEENAGERS ARE MORE likely than older adult vapers to use fruit and sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes, a new study has found. 

E-cigarettes were first introduced as a smoking cessation tool. However, vaping has skyrocketed among young people in the US to the point that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Surgeon General both recently declared youth e-cigarette use as an epidemic in the country. 

The FDA recently requested information on the role flavours may play in both attracting youth to tobacco products and also transitioning traditional smokers to e-cigarettes. 

A new US study, led by Samir Soneji, has looked at the types of e-cigarette flavours used by adolescent, young adult and older adult users and compared across these groups the availability of appealing flavours for e-cigarette use. 

“The availability of appealing e-cigarette flavours was a more salient reason for vaping among adolescents and young adults than among older adults,” Soneji said. 

We found that adolescent and young adult vapers were not only more likely than older adult vapers to use fruit and candy-flavoured e-cigarettes, but were more likely to concurrently use multiple flavour types. 

The researchers also found that current cigarette smokers who tried to quit smoking in the past year were more likely than non-cigarette smokers to use tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes.

Common components of fruit and sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes may have negative impacts on lung function and may contribute to respiratory cell inflammation, respiratory disease and irritation when inhaled, the research noted. 

“We are looking to determine if adolescents who vape sweet-flavoured e-cigarettes are more likely to initiate cigarette smoking than their counterparts who vape tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes,” Soneji said. 

“On the other hand, we’ll determine if adult cigarette smokers who vape tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes are more likely to quit cigarette smoking than their counterparts who vape sweet flavoured e-cigarettes,” he said. 

By providing information on flavour types, Soneji’s study could help the FDA and other regulatory agencies in refining effective e-cigarette regulation.

“Stricter regulation or banning of flavoured e-cigarettes, such as fruit and candy, can achieve the dual goal of reducing youth vaping while not burdening older adult cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes to help quit,” he said. 

Ireland’s stance

The Health Ireland Survey 2018 reported that 4% of the Irish population currently use e-cigarettes and a further 12% have tried them at some point. A total of 9% of current smokers use e-cigarettes, with 10% of ex-smokers using them. 

Due to the fact that e-cigarettes are not medical products or medical devices, they are not regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

The EU Tobacco Products Directive regulates certain aspects of e-cigarettes. These include setting safety and quality standards, making health warnings mandatory, introducing notification requirements for manufacturers and importers, imposing stricter rules on advertising and monitoring market developments.

Under regulations, a manufacturer or importer of an e-cigarette or refill container must submit a notification to the HSE of any such products they intend to place on the market. 

The government’s policy on tobacco control is laid out within its Tobacco Free Ireland report. 

The report, which was published in 2013, notes that “there appears to be general consensus that there is a lack of research in relation to the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes and a lack of sufficient evidence that they aid with smoking cessation”. 

Hiqa was commissioned by the Department of Health National Tobacco Control Advisor to conduct a health technology assessment of stop smoking interventions, including e-cigarettes.

It found in 2017 that there was “insufficient evidence at present to reliably demonstrate their effectiveness as an aid to stop smoking” and identified various concerns regarding long term safety profile and potential implications for youth initiation of smoking.

Further information from the HSE on e-cigarettes in Ireland can be found here

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