So, you’ve quit regular cigarettes—congratulations, you’re probably happier and earning more at work—and made the switch to e-cigarettes. Or maybe you’ve started vaping because it’s a social thing. Either way, you probably know that “vape juice”—the liquid that delivers an e-cig’s chemical payload—is the essential ingredient for any vaper.
And if you’re a young person, chances are you prefer flavored vape juice, whether it’s vanilla, “sour punched watermelon,” or something that we can only assume tastes like the smell of a car freshener.
That’s the takeaway from a new study published in the journal Tobacco Regulatory Science, which found that a whopping 80% of young people surveyed used flavored tobacco, particularly for e-cig users.
In the study, researchers talked to more than 2,400 students (ages 12-17) and 4,300 young adults (ages 18-29) in four large cities across Texas, and asked them if they’d continue to smoke e-cigarettes if flavored “vapor juice” or “e-liquid” wasn’t available.
The results? An overwhelming 77% of middle school- and high school-aged students, along with 73% of young adults, said they would not continue to use tobacco products if flavored options weren’t available. Furthermore, nearly every person surveyed said their first e-cigarette was flavored, which suggests that the sweet, fruity, and funky flavors are a major draw that get young people to start using e-cigs in the first place—and a major factor in maintaining their habits.
“Taste is an important factor in all tobacco products,” said Melissa B. Harrell, Ph.D., M.P.H., a lead researcher on the study and associate professor at the at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin. “Our study supports a growing body of evidence that suggests the use of flavors in tobacco products, like e-cigarettes, are appealing to youth and young adults.”
So while traditional cigarette smokers inhale more cancer-causing chemicals than vapers, many of the long-term side effects of e-cigarettes are still largely unknown. And though e-cigs may prove a safer alternative for adults, American health officials are still bearish on e-cigs, with the surgeon general saying they’re creating a “public health crisis” among underage Americans—which may be caused in part by the sweet flavorings.