Role of flavours in vaping uptake and cessation among New Zealand smokers and non-smokers: a cross-sectional study

Tob Control. 2020 Feb 14;tobaccocontrol-2019-055469. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2019-055469. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Concerns about the effects of vaping have prompted calls to restrict e-cigarette flavours. Vaping proponents have criticised these proposals, which they argue may discourage smokers from taking up vaping or trigger relapse to smoking. We explored the role flavours play in vaping uptake and cessation among New Zealand cigarette smokers and vaping-susceptible never smokers (VSNS), and examined current vapers' preferred flavours.

Methods: We conducted an online survey of 1005 New Zealanders aged 18-70 years that included 324 current vapers (vaped in the last 30 days) and 302 'past' vapers (reported past vaping, but not within the last month). We asked respondents their reasons for vaping and explored current vapers' preferred e-cigarette flavours; we analysed the data using descriptive statistics and logistic regression.

Results: Irrespective of smoking status, flavour was one of the main reasons respondents gave for vaping (smokers 83%; former smokers 77%; VSNS 80%). Flavour was less important to former vapers; 47% of smokers, 57% of former smokers and 64% of VSNS cited flavour as a reason for originally taking up vaping. Fruit flavours were most popular among all three groups; smokers also favoured tobacco flavour, while former smokers also favoured mint or menthol, and never smokers also favoured confectionery/sweets/lolly flavours.

Conclusions: Flavours play a major role in vaping initiation for current smokers, former smokers and vaping-susceptible non-smokers, and remain important to those who continue vaping. Our findings highlight the need for regulation that allows some flavour diversity without the extravagant marketing currently used to promote vaping and e-liquids.

Keywords: advertising and promotion; electronic nicotine delivery devices; public policy.