The Food and Drug Administration announced last week it is considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to curb underage use of the product.
Alexandra Loukas, principal investigator of UT’s Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team, said the ban would be effective at cutting down use by young people. The most common flavored e-cigarettes on the market are those made by Juul Labs, according to marketing analytics company Nielsen. Unflavored e-cigarettes would not be included under the possible ban.
“A flavor ban would be a really good idea,” said Loukas, a health education professor. “For example, flavored cigarettes were on the market because they were easier (to smoke). Tobacco is harsh … but adding menthol, adding other kinds of flavors, makes it easier to accept that product. Flavors do attract younger people. We know that.”
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb described youth use of e-cigarettes as a problem that has come to a fever pitch in a speech at the agency’s headquarters last Wednesday.
“We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion,” Gottlieb said.
Loukas said one of the reasons for this is the increasing popularity of Juul, a compact e-cigarette with prefilled nicotine pods.
“Juul’s popularity really exploded over the past year or so, even though it’s been on the market for a little bit longer than that,” Loukas said. “Juul tends to have a higher concentration of nicotine than most other e-cigarettes. And so that’s one of the problems … the nicotine content is so high.”
According to Juul Labs, all of its cartridges, referred to as “pods,” contain about 0.7 mL of nicotine, which is roughly equivalent to the nicotine content of two packs of cigarettes.
Health and society sophomore Sydney Stringer said she believes most people get hooked on Juuls for cultural reasons.
“I think usually what happens is people get exposed to it in a social setting,” Singer said. “I feel like it’s really become part of the party culture. I feel like most people, if they decide that they like it, say, ‘I’m just going to reserve it for weekends and parties … and it usually ends up turning into an everyday thing.”
Undeclared freshman Hattie Broyles said she also thinks people use Juuls for social reasons and was introduced to them by her friends.
“Everyone was like, ‘Hey try this new thing — it’s so much healthier than cigarettes,’” Broyles said. “I’ve been one of those people who’ve always said ‘I’m never smoking,’ but I tried it one time, and when I first started using the Juul I used it a lot. Now I don’t.”
Broyles added she feels that without the flavor component, Juul use would be far less prevalent.
“I see a lot of people around me who do have addictions to the Juul,” Broyles said. “If Juul had never come out with any flavored things, I don’t think they would have an addiction.”