New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens) wants to ban flavored electronic cigarettes—for the children, of course. "These flavors are direct marketing to children," Constantinides told the New York Daily News. "They appeal to children, and we're taking them out of that market."
I doubt that Constantinides has any evidence, aside from his own intuition, to back up his claim that e-cigarette companies are targeting children. But one thing is clear: Whether or not they appeal to minors, the flavors that offend him appeal to adults who switch from smoking to vaping. In a survey conducted by E-Cigarette Forum last summer, three-quarters of adult vapers favored flavor categories other than tobacco, including fruit (31 percent), bakery/dessert (19 percent), and savory/spice (5 percent). Sales data from Palm Beach Vapors, a chain of 14 stores that sell vaping equipment and liquids to adults only, confirm that supposedly juvenile flavors are popular with adults. Last fiscal year, only two of the chain's top 19 sellers were tobacco flavors. They finished 18th and 19th, far below flavors such as strawberry, watermelon, and cinnamon.
Two-thirds of the ex-smokers in the E-Cigarette Forum survey said nontobacco flavors were important in helping them quit. Survey data reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last December likewise indicate that flavor variety is important in quitting. That study, which involved about 4,500 vapers, found that they tended to prefer tobacco-flavored fluid initially but later switched to other flavors. Most reported using more than one flavor on a daily basis and said the variety made the experience more interesting and enjoyable.
Critics like Constantinides and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-Va.), guided by little more than their own idiosyncratic tastes, want to decree which flavors adult vapers may consume, even at the cost of deterring smokers from quitting. "Studies show that e-cigarettes, particularly flavored kinds, are effective at helping smokers move away from combustible cigarettes," says Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association. "The AVA supports common-sense regulation of its products, such as New York City's existing ban on [sales] to minors. But adults are free to make their own choices." For now.