The city of Sacramento recently joined San Francisco and other cities in banning flavored e-cigarette cartridges and flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.
Candy and fruit-flavored e-juices have put a new twist on a not-so-new concept, giving those who choose to vape a new set of choices. Although these products have been in the news and subject to some controversy, the idea isn’t new at all – tobacco manufacturers have been selling flavored products for decades. Besides mentholated cigarettes, checkout counters everywhere have long offered cigars infused with grape, blueberry, and even chocolate. Municipalities where cannabis has been legalized openly allow the sale of cannabis-infused candy, brightly colored gummy bears, chocolate bars and cookies, and all without the same level of controversy that has attached itself to flavored vapes.
California says no to candy vapes, but yes to candy cannabis
The move by several California cities highlights a particularly unusual juxtaposition of conflicting laws. In cities like Sacramento and San Francisco, you are not able to buy a flavored cigar or a menthol cigarette regardless of your age, but you can however, buy all the marijuana-infused gummy bears, candy, pot marshmallows and brownies you want.
“Marijuana dispensaries are age-regulated, which keeps those candy-flavored cannabis products out of the hands of minors,” said Todd Skezas, CEO and co-founder of San Diego-based Vapor Authority. “But the same is true for vape products, whether they are sold online or in brick-and-mortar stores. The fact is, sweet-flavored vape liquids are attractive to many adults who are looking for a different experience, and both the FDA and the industry itself has taken aggressive measures to keep these products out of the hands of minors.” Vapor Authority is one of several ethical online vape vendors which put in place rigorous age verification measures even before FDA guidance made it a requirement.
A recent Newsday op-ed pointed out the inconsistencies of such regulations, asks the question “What makes sense on tobacco and vaping products?” The article notes that “…it ought to be considered in the context of consumption of other potentially dangerous substances. Banning peppermint vape juice while permitting peppermint schnapps and marijuana peppermints is foolish.”
Adults and Candy Vape
Candy, sweets and other guilty pleasures – what adult hasn’t indulged from time to time in a wonderful box of chocolate truffles, a gooey candy bar or a hot cup of hot chocolate with sweet marshmallows on top? The argument against candy-flavored vapes makes the flawed assumption that sweet flavors are just for children. Adults however, don’t give up their Snickers bars when they turn 18. Some of the most popular cocktails adults enjoy include strawberry margaritas, fruity pina coladas and a chocolate martini. If, as the regulators and anti-vape activists seem to argue, adults don’t like sweet flavors, surely confectioners would be selling broccoli-flavored candy bars, and bartenders would be serving up sour drinks topped with a Brussels sprout garnish. The same is true of smoking and vaping – simply put, adults enjoy sweet flavors, whether it’s in their desserts, favorite drinks or in their choice of vaping products.
Recent research from the UK-based Centre for Substance Use Research reinforces the value of flavored vapes, noting that e-cigarette users who have made the switch from combustible cigarettes to e-cigarettes are more likely to have begun e-cigarette use with non-tobacco flavors. The study concludes, “Restricting access to non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors may discourage smokers from attempting to switch to e-cigarettes.” That conclusion is especially important given the existence of dozens of studies that all reinforce the argument that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes, and are an effective tool for smoking cessation.
Should candy flavored vape products (and all vape products, for that matter) be age-restricted? Absolutely. Existing rules already enforce age restrictions, and newer rules make it even more difficult for minors to access these products. But outlawing flavored vapes is inconsistent, and eliminates a valid and preferred choice for many adults.