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Flavours key to smokers switching to vaping: study

July 12, 2018

E-cigarette merchandise is displayed for sale at a vaping shop in Bedminster, on December 30, 2016 in Bristol. (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Flavours play a critical role in attracting – and retaining – smokers into the vaping category, directly contributing to tobacco harm reduction, finds a new research among the US users.

“The results show that non-tobacco flavours, especially fruit based flavours, are being increasingly preferred to tobacco flavours by adult vapers who have completely switched from combustible cigarettes to vapour products,“ said Dr Christopher Russell, Deputy Director of CSUR, who led the research.

The survey, one of the largest of its kind to focus on flavours, conducted by the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR), a research centre specialising in studies into the use and impact of both legal and illegal substances, and funded by Fontem Ventures, assessed the first flavour and current e-vapour product flavour used by over 20,000 adult frequent vapers in the United States.

The majority of frequent e-vapour product users, who had completely switched from smoking cigarettes to using vaping products, are shown to have increasingly likely initiated vaping with non-tobacco flavours, and to have transitioned from tobacco to non-tobacco flavours over time, show the results published in the peer-reviewed Harm Reduction Journal.

Of the 20,836 adult frequent e-vapour product users in the survey, nearly 16,000 had completely switched to from smoking to vaping, while 5,000 were dual users who were smoking and using e-vapour products.

In the study the most popular currently used e-vapour flavours in the US were fruit/fruit beverage, where up to 82.9% of sampled users reporting regular purchase and use of vape liquids in this category, with dessert/pastry flavours next at 68.5%. Tobacco and menthol flavours ranked as the 5th and 6th most popular currently used flavours, respectively.

“The data suggest that U.S. vapers’ journeys towards quitting smoking are increasingly likely to start with, progress to, or be sustained by frequent use of vaping devices containing non-tobacco flavours”, said Dr Russell.

Commenting on the new research, Dr Grant O’Connell, Corporate Affairs Manager at Fontem Ventures said “The declining popularity of tobacco flavours among adult vapers strongly suggests that flavour bans like the one recently voted for in San Francisco, could see vapers return to cigarette smoking and discourage other adult smokers from switching.”

The study also looked at the flavour first time users typically used when starting to vape. The proportion of first vaping product purchases that were fruit-flavoured increased from 17.8% of first purchases made before 2011, to 33.5% first purchases made between June 2015 and June 2016. Tobacco-flavoured first purchases almost halved during this time from 46.0% pre-2011, to 24.0% between 2015-2016.