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How Does Addiction Taste? Flavored Tobacco Products and e-Cigs Are No Safer than Unflavored

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
October 23, 2015
The NIDA Blog Team

Flavored Tobacco Infographic

Vanilla, cherry, chocolate, grape, apple, cotton candy, banana split, bubble gum. These could be flavors from your local ice-cream shop. They (and many others) are also flavors used in many e-cigarette fluids (often called “e-liquid” or “e-juice”) as well as popular tobacco products like hookahs.

Something that comes in a variety of fun-sounding flavors may seem like it should be okay to consume. How dangerous could they really be?

That depends. Many of the e-cigarette companies are adding these flavors to liquid nicotine to make them appealing to young people. Will you fall for that? Liquid nicotine with flavors is just as unhealthy as its plain cousin. But if a flavored product says it contains no nicotine, is it safe? We simply don’t know. It’s still made with chemicals, and why risk inhaling them into your lungs?

Known—and unknown—risks

How many teens are trying the flavored nicotine e-cigs? According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 70 percent of middle-school and high-school students who have used a tobacco product or an e-cigarette in the past 30 days have used at least one flavored product during that time. E-cigarettes were the most commonly used, followed by hookahs and cigars.

Even though the jury is still out on how harmful e-cigarettes are, they have definite health consequences, whatever the taste. For starters, research has found they may be as addictive as regular cigarettes. Another study found that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely than others to smoke regular cigarettes, and use other tobacco products, when they’re older.

Also, the aerosol (vapor) created by e-cigarettes contains chemicals at concentrations (amounts) that are toxic. We do know that the liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes also can cause nicotine poisoning if a person accidentally drinks, sniffs, or touches it.

Not so tasty

E-cigarette manufacturers don’t usually state the levels of specific chemicals they include in the liquid nicotine. Which means that the flavors in e-cigarettes are like a smoke-able version of “mystery meat.”

What about flavored hookah products? With or without added flavors, hookahs are nothing more than inhaled tobacco smoke—same as cigarettes. Again, companies might use the flavoring to entice you, it’s up to you whether you take the bait.

Several makers of e-cigarettes are branding their flavors, so that one brand has a different name for, say, its cherry-flavored product than a different brand does. But whatever the name, the risks are the same. Flavors and catchy brand names are just a gimmick to sell you the same old addictive product.

Categories: Archived
Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Do we know the statistics for what percentage of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students are trying these e-cigarettes?

The Monitoring the Future Survey has data for 8th graders; you can read about it here under the tab "How many teens use tobacco and nicotine?"

The CDC also has some data about e-cigarette use:

With electronic or vaping pens you can get juice without nicotine. The only harmful chemical in the juice is nicotine as everything that is used to make the flavoring is all food flavoring that is regulated by the FDA. It is not a gateway to smoking it was to get people off of it. And yes you are wrong manufacturers do list what is in their liquid if they don't they are shady and no one should buy it anyways. Furthermore many companies do not use artificial flavorings and use only natural, but they are food flavoring the same that is in our candy products. So the only chemical is nicotine which you can buy juice to vape with no nicotine.
Excuse me but E-cigarettes in fact do contain lots of other toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and anti-freeze. I assume you use an E-cigarette then, if you think they're not all that bad. Do your research next time.
I think that all products that have nicotin in them can be harmful and addicting. Manufacturers try to down play it by creating all of these flavors that may sound appealing to a younger generation. It may not be as bad as smoking cigarettes but it is still harmful to your lungs and the chemicals inside the juice.
is it bad that i let my 9 year old smoke 5 packs a day.
I agree with you .. that this product is still dangerous for lungs .. :)
I think this is a really good area of reading for mature audiences and helps show people including adults and teens what the effects of drugs are and help parents of teens understand how to stand up against the drugs and how to size up their "competition". This also helps teens see how even though these drugs can be disguised they can"t be hidden.