There is a huge choice of different flavoured e-liquids, but do we need them? Some researchers produce surprising findings in Europe that help them to argue for banning all but tobacco juices, but more solid evidence from the UK demonstrates that smokers may begin with tobacco e-liquids but move on to sweeter flavours to help them remain smoke-free.
A quick glance at the juice selection on E-Liquids UK highlights the vast selection available to smokers looking to switch and ex-smokers now vaping. How important is UK vape liquid choice?
In “E-Liquid Flavour Preferences and Individual Factors Related to Vaping”, the researchers found that “the availability of different flavours was reported to be the most attractive product characteristic of e-cigarettes in all user groups,” for Dutch users.
But they used their surprising findings to argue for “restricting the marketing and promotion of e-liquid flavours that young people find particularly appealing.”
In effect, they want to ban nice flavours but keep tobacco because they falsely claim most smokers and ex-smokers prefer tobacco or menthol flavours – something at odds with all UK consumer surveys. They believe that banning popular flavours will prevent children from initiating vaping but still appeal to adults.
A group of experts addressed the flaw in this reasoning. Saying: “If vaping substitutes for smoking there is a public health benefit, but this is not acknowledged in the justification for the flavour ban. When flavoured e-cigarettes contribute to smoking cessation, when
they substitute for smoking or reduce smoking to low levels, and when they prevent initiation on combustible products there is a potential health benefit from harm reduction that must be acknowledged. These effects can apply to both adults and to youth. The harm reduction benefits arise because non-combustible products are much less risky than smoking products.”
Currently, the rules applied to the products UK vape shops can stock are being changed but publication has been delayed. It remains highly unlikely that a restriction on the choice will be applied in the UK.
What do we know about the popularity of UK vape juice flavours?
A discussion on the Planet of the Vapes forum showed that most prefer bakery, fruit, and sweet options – milkshakes, ice creams, and custards have always been a popular choice with this sizeable section of the vaping community.
One went so far as to say: “One reason I took up vaping and stuck to it, was the choice of flavours. No choice – might as well smoke.”
Even when it comes to tobacco flavours, it is rare to find a long-term vaper who is happy to have a simple tobacco flavour. It is more common to discover tobacco juices that are complex and made using a host of other flavours to deliver the complexity found in premium vape liquid – such as tobacco combined with caramels, custards, fruits or bakery flavours.
Independent research has demonstrated the importance of having a choice. A study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, led by Ann McNeil (responsible for the annual Public Health England evidence update), found that “Fruit (31.6%) [is] the most popular flavour” and “Compared to users of tobacco flavours, those vaping ‘sweet’ flavours were more likely to quit smoking.”
This finding was mirrored in the latest annual study published by Action on Smoking and Health also found that fruit flavours were the most popular: “fruit flavours are most popular with ex-smokers (37% compared to 33% for dual users).”
Choice it seems is vital to users of UK e-liquid – which one is your preferred option?