Fruity or minty? US may ban vape flavours most popular with teens

Prohibition could cover all flavours, but e-cigarette advocates want to exempt at least mint and menthol for adults.

FILE PHOTO: Juul brand vape cartridges are pictured for sale at a shop in Atlanta
New research in the US shows that mint is the most popular flavour among 10th and 12th graders, and the second-most popular flavour among eighth graders [Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters]

Mint and menthol are among the most popular e-cigarette flavors with young users, according to U.S. government survey data that could weigh on a decision about whether or not to ban the flavors.

The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, produced by the Food and Drug Administration and published Nov. 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows e-cigarette use remains highly prevalent among teenagers who start as early as middle school.

The study says about 4.1 million high-school students and 1.2 million middle-school students will have used vaping products at some point in 2019.

About 4 million high school students and 840,000 middle school students said they used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. That’s about 27% of high-school students and 10% of middle-school students who are currently vaping.

Mint and menthol are the second most frequently reported flavor category, after fruit.

Fruit is the preferred vaping choice for two-thirds of high-school (66%) and middle-school (68%) students.

Menthol and mint flavors are almost as popular among high-school students (57%) and less so among middle-school students (31%).

Candy or dessert-flavored vaping products are used much less frequently.

Meanwhile, separate research published in JAMA Tuesday, which focused specifically on which Juul flavors teenagers are using, found mint to be the most popular flavor among 10th and 12th graders, and the second most popular flavor among 8th graders.

“The current findings raise uncertainty whether regulations or sales suspensions that exempt mint flavors are optimal strategies for reducing youth e-cigarette use,” authors of the study wrote.

The findings come as the Trump administration is mulling a ban on flavored vaping products, but e-cigarette advocates are pressing to preserve mint and menthol for adults.

The White House is undecided, even though Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last month that the administration would soon ban all flavors of vaping products except tobacco.

Meanwhile, lung injury linked to vaping – mostly of THC-containing products – has been linked to 1,888 cases in 49 states.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct the National Youth Tobacco Survey each year to monitor aspects of tobacco use.

Last year’s survey found a 78% jump in the number of school students who were using e-cigarettes, ringing alarm bells about a youth vaping epidemic. This year’s survey is based on responses of 19,000 participants to estimate how common e-cigarette use is.

Juul, made by Juul Labs Inc., remains the most popular brand, as 59% of high school students and 54% of middle school students named the product as their usual brand of e-cigarettes. Of users, an estimated 72% of high school students and 59% of middle school students used flavored e-cigarettes.

“The results of this survey are particularly concerning given relatively high exposure to nicotine through the use of nicotine salt–based e-cigarette products such as Juul, which was the most commonly reported brand among youth using e-cigarettes in 2019,” Karen A. Cullene, epidemiology branch chief at the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, and her co-authors wrote.

Source: Bloomberg