Impact of existing and potential e-cigarette flavor restrictions on e-cigarette use among young adult e-cigarette users in 6 US metropolitan areas

Prev Med Rep. 2022 Jul 9;28:101901. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101901. eCollection 2022 Aug.


Given the 2020 federal restrictions on flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes and increasing state/local flavored e-cigarette sales restrictions, this mixed-methods study examined US young adult e-cigarette users' responses to flavored e-cigarette sales restrictions (e.g., changes in use, products used, access). We descriptively analyzed Fall 2020 survey data from 726 past 6-month e-cigarette users (Mage = 24.15, 51.1% female, 4.4% Black, 10.2% Asian, 12.1% Hispanic, 35.5% sexual minority), and qualitatively analyzed Spring 2021 semi-structured interview data among 40 participants (Mage = 26.30, 35.0% female, 5.0% Black, 22.5% Asian, 12.5% Hispanic, 45.0% sexual minority). Across all participants (i.e., survey and interview participants), ≥80% most commonly used non-tobacco flavors; ≥40% used tank-based devices. Survey participants most commonly reported that the federal restrictions did not impact their use: 35.8% used available flavors (i.e., tobacco, menthol), 30.4% continued to use tank-based e-cigarettes, and 10.1% switched to tank-based e-cigarettes. Only 8.4% reduced their e-cigarette use. Among interview participants, some indicated no impact on their e-cigarette use because they stocked up or obtained flavors from alternative sources (e.g., online). Some filled their own pods with e-liquids, switched to menthol/tobacco flavors, switched e-cigarette devices or brands, and/or reduced use. Regarding the anticipated impact of comprehensive flavor restrictions, some participants reported that they would: 1) quit vaping; 2) switch to cigarettes; or 3) not change their use (e.g., stock up on flavors). The potential unintended reactions to flavored e-cigarette sales restrictions (e.g., continued use of flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes) underscore the need for ongoing surveillance of retail and consumer behavior to inform policy and compliance/enforcement efforts.

Keywords: E-cigarettes; Flavor restrictions; Mixed-methods; Young adults.