Adolescents' interest in trying flavoured e-cigarettes
BACKGROUND: More US adolescents use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes. Research suggests flavoured e-cigarettes appeal to youth, but little is known about perceptions of and reasons for attraction to specific flavours.
METHODS: A national sample of adolescents (n=1125) ages 13-17 participated in a phone survey from November 2014 to June 2015. We randomly assigned adolescents to respond to survey items about 1 of 5 e-cigarette flavours (tobacco, alcohol, menthol, candy or fruit) and used regression analysis to examine the impact of flavour on interest in trying e-cigarettes and harm beliefs.
RESULTS: Adolescents were more likely to report interest in trying an e-cigarette offered by a friend if it were flavoured like menthol (OR=4.00, 95% CI 1.46 to 10.97), candy (OR=4.53, 95% CI 1.67 to 12.31) or fruit (OR=6.49, 95% CI 2.48 to 17.01) compared with tobacco. Adolescents believed that fruit-flavoured e-cigarettes were less harmful to health than tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes (p<0.05). Perceived harm mediated the relationship between some flavours and interest in trying e-cigarettes. A minority of adolescents believed that e-cigarettes did not have nicotine (14.6%) or did not know whether they had nicotine (3.6%); these beliefs did not vary by flavour.
DISCUSSION: Candy-flavoured, fruit-flavoured and menthol-flavoured e-cigarettes appeal to adolescents more than tobacco-flavoured or alcohol-flavoured e-cigarettes. This appeal is only partially explained by beliefs about reduced harm. Given adolescents' interest in trying e-cigarettes with certain flavours, policymakers should consider restricting advertisements promoting flavoured products in media that reach large numbers of young people. Future research should examine other reasons for the appeal of individual flavours, such as novelty and perceived luxury.