Flavored Tobacco Use Among Teens

Teens and young adults are using flavored tobacco at an alarming rate, which is much higher than other age groups. Flavored tobacco has become more enticing than traditional cigarettes, vapes, hookah, and chewing tobacco products. More and more teens are experimenting due to the way companies are choosing to appeal to young adults and market their products, regardless of the ramifications. The following statistics are based on teens and young adults ages 12-17 (Truth Initiative):

  1. 78.9% of tobacco users have smoked hookah in the last 30 days.
  2. 81.5% of tobacco users and 13.8% of ALL middle and high schoolers have used an e-cigarette or vape in the last 30 days.
  3. 69.3% of tobacco users have consumed smokeless tobacco in the last 30 days. 
  4. 70% of teens admit to using a tobacco product at some point in their life.

Teen Perception of Flavored Products

Due to the way fruit-flavored and menthol-flavored tobacco products are shown in advertisements and social media, teens and young adults view them as less harmful than cigarettes. Research shows that young adults also prefer sweet smells and flavors, which explains the increase in influence with that age group. They also believe that flavored tobacco just tastes better. Many teens use e-cigarettes merely to sample and discuss the various flavors with their peers. 

Hookah is another way teens are influenced by flavored tobacco. Teens and young adults perceive hookah to be an activity and less addictive than traditional products, but it’s not. The FDA has approved many different flavorings for ingestion, but this doesn’t include inhaling. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a common flavor additive is Diacetyl. This is found in butter flavoring such as microwave popcorn. While it is safe to ingest, there has not been approved for it to be inhaled. There are many well-documented cases of this additive causing chronic lung disease and even lung transplants due to “popcorn lung”.

Marketing of Flavored Products

Unfortunately, manufacturers are aware of the appeal that various flavors have on teens. They use marketing strategies such as colorful imagery and packaging, paying stores to place them on countertops, advertising limited time only flavors, and appealing language such as “grape fusion”. 

Change is Needed

Currently, in some states, flavored tobacco is allowed to be sold next to candy. This is purely to appeal to the younger generation. Tobacco manufacturers are aware that more school-age youth, women, and young adults are trying their products. Some states are starting to prohibit the sale of certain flavors, however, the industry is finding loopholes. Until there is a federal ban, states need to prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine products. 

Talk to Your Teen

Flavored tobacco products aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is important to discuss the harmful effects tobacco has on the user. Any form of nicotine can harm brain development, alter nerve cell functioning, cause seizures, release toxins into the body, and respiratory infections.

Not sure how to start the conversation? Download our free guide 10 Tips for Talking to Your Child About Substance Use to begin talking today! Follow us on Instagram or Facebook for informative content, prevention resources, the latest facts, and ways to guide your teen.

Drug Free Clubs of America is on a mission to reduce the impacts of drug use in youth. Across the nation, drug and alcohol use is on the rise among teens. We provide students with practical tools and techniques to navigate peer pressure and choose a healthy lifestyle. Partnering with schools and the community, we offer preventative programming to meet students where they are. Through randomized drug testing, educational resources, a positive outlet, and a supportive community, we are changing school cultures and reducing alcohol, marijuana, vaping, and other detrimental activities among our members and the entire school body. Drug Free Clubs of America has over 6,000 student and faculty/staff members and Clubs in over 50 schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Find us on Instagram or Facebook for informative content, prevention resources, the latest facts, and ways to guide teens in your community.

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