Research: US teen vaping numbers climb, fueled by Juul & mint flavor

Henrietta Strickland
November 8, 2019

Allowing menthol-flavored e-cigarettes to stay on the market could help Juul preserve a big chunk of its sales, and might provide a loophole for them to sell the popular mint flavor by another name, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

The government report, surveying nearly 20,000 young people, also found that Juul is the preferred brand for 60% of high school e-cigarette users.

But the new study has a simple explanation for that apparent link: People who tend to vape may just be more similar to those who tend to smoke.

The USC study was based on data from a 2019 survey of more than 14,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12, across the United States, who were asked which Juul flavor they use most often.

Nationally representative survey data collected in 2019 from about 14,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders were used, of whom almost 19% reported vaping of any nicotine product in the past 30 days and 12.6% reported using JUUL e-cigarettes (7% in eighth grade, 15% in 10th grade and 16% in 12th grade).

Of teens who self-reported using Juul e-cigarettes in 2019, mint was the most popular flavor in 10th and 12th grades and the second most popular in eighth grade, behind mango. "Rather than giving up when they can't get their particular flavor, they're switching to a flavor that is more available". In contrast, less than 6% of teenagers across all grades preferred menthol. The Trump administration has proposed banning virtually all vaping flavors.

"Regulations which reduce youth exposure to flavored e-cigarettes may aid in preventing young people who try e-cigarettes from becoming long-term e-cig users", Leventhal said. "Considering these factors, young e-cigarette users are at high risk of becoming addicted to nicotine", she said.

"The March 2019 policy to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigs in convenience stores, but allow them in adult only vape shops, was aimed at preserving the adult segment for adult smokers seeking to quit, while taking products most widely used by kids out of the leakiest channel", Gottlieb wrote.

A study by Leventhal published October 28 in the journal Pediatrics found that teens who use flavored e-cigarettes are more likely to become regular users and vape more heavily.

The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products (U54CA180905), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (K24048160) and the NIDA and FDA Center for Tobacco Products award No. 3R01DA001411-44S1. "We are in the midst of an e-cigarette crisis, the aftermath of which we could be dealing with for decades".

But health groups and anti-vaping advocates worry that regulators may be backing away from their original proposal. Last month, Juul suspended sales of all of its flavors, except mint, menthol and tobacco.

Facing multiple state and federal investigations, Juul has pledged to not lobby against the federal flavor ban.

Juul representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new research.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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