Candy-Flavored E-Liquid: Marketing to Kids or Knowing Your Customers?
In the ongoing debate over electronic cigarettes and e-liquids, one of the predominant fears of anti-smoking advocates – as traditional cigarette use drops and e-cigarette sales are projected to reach over 10 billion dollars annually by 2017 – is that e-cigs will “renormalize” smoking and create a whole new generation of users. And an effective tactic for spreading that fear is to portray companies producing any form of flavored (especially candy-flavored) e-liquid as, “marketing to children.” Or even to take the rhetoric a step further, as one anti-smoking advocate recently did in the Chicago Tribune, “I think there must be a special ring in Hades for people who deliberately entice hundreds of thousands of children who have never smoked into a life-long addiction to nicotine.”
It’s a historically successful tactic that harks back to the debate over combustible tobacco products. Anything that could potentially be harmful to children is a moral and ethical non-starter. It’s repulsive. It’s repugnant. And with e-liquids being produced in a variety of dessert, candy and fruit flavors, it’s also easy for opponents to claim these products are being marketed to kids in the same way Big Tobacco used to do it. But is the argument true?
While further regulation is needed to ensure e-liquid products don’t make it into the hands of minors, the flavors exist to satisfy the demands of adult consumers.
Avail Vapor, LLC, a Richmond, Va.–based electronic cigarette company, recently conducted a study in response to an FDA request to provide feedback from e-cigarette users. The results revealed an awful lot about the habits and preferences of the adults using these products: Of the 8,098 respondents that answered, over 51% started vaping with tobacco or menthol e-liquid flavors. But just under 18% of that same group continues to vape those flavors now. And far less than that, just 2.73% of all respondents, vape tobacco or menthol-flavored e-liquid exclusively.
That means upwards of 97% of all e-cigarette users polled by Avail vape non-traditional e-liquid flavors either exclusively or in conjunction with traditional flavors.
With over two-thirds of vapers responding that they switch e-liquid flavors at least once per week, and over 72% of respondents noting that a variety of flavor options is “very important,” the diversity of non-traditional e-liquid flavors available to vapers is a concerted effort on the part of manufacturers to give consumers what they want—not a deliberate effort to trick children.
While conventional wisdom says that kids like fruit flavors and candy, so do a lot of adults—at least according to this study.
Asked to pick their top two e-liquid flavor types, the 8,098 adults surveyed by Avail Vapor, LLC chose Fruity (64.36%), Dessert (39.58%), Savory (26.96%), Candy (19.49%) and even Cereal (17.16%) flavored e-liquids before Tobacco (9.46%) and Menthol (9.06%) flavors.
These e-liquid flavors are made for adults because that’s what adult vapers want. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be vigilant and enact policy that keeps them out of the hands of minors. But characterizing these products’ mere existence as a pre-meditated attempt to hook children on an addictive substance is more politically advantageous to opponents of vaping than it is accurate.
The opinions and other information contained in these blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Nicopure Labs LLC, owner of the Halo and HaloCigs marks.
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