Tobacco Industry and Ecig Flavors, the Truth
One of the biggest criticisms of e-cigarettes is that they come in all sorts of flavors that appeal to children. The implication is that this is a cynical ploy by the Tobacco Industry to hook children into a lifetime of nicotine dependency.
Now, I’m not a fan of the TI, and I worry about their entrance into the e-cigarette market (which only happened two year’s ago, lest it be forgotten), but this idea that flavors is a ploy by them needs to be tackled head on. So, let’s look at the brands owned by Big Tobacco, and list the flavors they come in….
Vuse – Tobacco/Menthol
British American Tobacco
Vype – (ecopure eliquid) – Rich, Classic & menthol
Intellicig – (ecopure eliquid) - Rich, Classic & menthol
Note, ecopure is in some respects unflavored. Ethyl Maltol is used to give a sweetness to the “rich” flavor, but no other tobacco flavorings are used
Blucig – Classic Tobacco/Menthol/Rich Tobacco/Tobacco Gold/Cherry/Vanilla/NRG (taurine)/Cinamon
Skycig – Being rebranded as Blu with the same flavors
Greensmoke – Red Label Tobacco/Mocha Mist/Smooth Chocolate/ Vanilla Dreams/ Tobacco Gold/ Mountain Clove/Absolute Tobacco/Menthol Ice
Nicolites – Golden Tobacco/ Tobacco / Menthol / Cherry
So, the TI’s e-cig offerings are dominated by tobacco and menthol, essentially an attempted facsimile of their smoked tobacco offerings. Where flavors are offered, they are not the “child targeted” types as regularly flagged up in the media; Bubblegum, Cotton Candy, Gummy Bears and so forth are simply absent from their product lines.
Now, there are probably two reasons for the lack of flavorings from the TI's product lines. Firstly, the inventory issue - the TI seeks products that can fit into their cigarette distribution model. Limiting the inventory (and thus flavor offerings) is a clear necessity in this regard.
Secondly, it’s clear from surveys we’ve done on ECF, from Dr. Farsalinos’ research and from conversations on social media that appealing non-tobacco flavors are the key for many vapers to make the full transition to vaping and stop smoking. The tobacco industry is excited about the possibility of a new revenue stream, but it does not wish to compete strongly with its proven revenue maker – smoked tobacco.
At this point one can only theorize as to why flavors are so important for vapers. I think three things are at play:
1. The tobacco flavored e-cigs are actually pretty bad. They don’t taste like cigarettes, and they provide a different sensory experience that, combined with the flavor, means e-cigarettes lack the replication of the smoking experience.
2. Smokers have dulled olfactory capacity. They cannot smell as well as non-smokers, and as they smoke less they regain this capacity. New, interesting flavors obviously appeal to them, and so become an important (and natural) demand from e-cigs.
3. Flavors create a “distancing” effect from tobacco. They are pleasant in and of themselves and this factor combined with the above two are important in that they make smoked tobacco seem more unpleasant. In other words, they "rebrand" tobacco as something unpleasant.
I think the totality of the evidence is pretty clear that flavored vaping products are very important to vapers, especially those that wish to make the full substitution. It is an unintended consequence that some flavors appeal to children, but given the overwhelming evidence that shows non-smoking children are not using e-cigarettes in any significant numbers this should not overshadow the importance of continued availability of these products to adult vapers.