Study authors claim flavored tobacco entices children and teens to smoke, based on findings that 8 in 10 kids use flavored products when trying tobacco for the first time.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study examined flavored tobacco use among children and teens. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned cigarettes with fruit, candy and other flavors that might appeal to children. The ban was part of a national effort by the FDA to combat smoking—the leading preventable cause of death in America.
However, these strict regulations do not apply to other tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars. Non-cigarette tobacco products can be still flavored, and as many studies suggest, these products are particularly appealing to children and teens.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, which surveys U.S. residents about their health and lifestyle. From 2013–2014, a total of 13,651 children between 12 and 17 years old participated in the study, completing questionnaires about tobacco use.
Based on responses, 21% of children and teens reported ever having tried tobacco products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, smokeless tobacco, snus and pipes. Among those that tried tobacco products, 80% used a flavored product when using tobacco for the first time. And 80% of current tobacco users report using flavored products.
When children were asked why they use tobacco products, flavor was an important factor. Among current non-cigarette tobacco users, 67–82% reported using tobacco products because they come in flavors they like. Also concerning, nearly 80% of e-cigarette users reported using the product because they perceive it as less harmful than cigarettes.
As authors explain, this study confirms the appeal of flavored tobacco products to teens. Not only do most teens experiment with flavored products, many continue tobacco use because of the attractive flavors.
Authors hope findings will aid in tobacco control and prevention strategies for America’s youth. Since most smokers pick up the habit in adolescence, preventing children from ever trying tobacco products is key. Reducing the availability of flavored tobacco products may be an important way to discourage teens from trying and using tobacco products. Findings also highlight the need for education about the harms of non-cigarette products, as many teens perceive these products to be safer than cigarettes.