New research provides further evidence that younger tobacco users are more likely to use flavored products.

Eighty percent of youth tobacco users (ages 12 to 17) and 73 percent of young adult smokers (ages 18 to 24) use flavored tobacco, according to a new study led by the Schroeder Institute® for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at Truth Initiative® and supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

flavored products attract young users and serve as starter products to regular tobacco use

Flavored tobacco use is lowest among adult tobacco users 65 and older, 29 percent of whom use flavored tobacco. Researchers used data from Wave 1 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, a national sample of over 45,000 youth and adults.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, revealed that flavor is a key factor in tobacco product selection, especially among youth. Eighty-one percent of youth and 86 percent of young adults who ever used tobacco reported their first tobacco product was flavored, compared to 54 percent of adults over age 25. Importantly, youth and adults whose first tobacco product was flavored had a significantly higher prevalence of current tobacco use.

“A central question in tobacco control is whether characterizing flavors exert a significant effect on youth experimentation and progression to regular tobacco use,” said the study’s lead author, Andrea Villanti, director of regulatory science and policy at the Schroeder Institute. “The results from this study add to a growing body of evidence that flavored products attract young users and serve as starter products to regular tobacco use.”

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act banned the use of most “characterizing flavors” in cigarettes, including candy and fruit flavors, but excluded menthol from the ban. The FDA has yet to ban menthol from cigarettes or regulate flavors in noncigarette tobacco products (cigarillos, traditional cigars and vaping products).

Truth Initiative and other public health organizations have called on the FDA to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

key
takeaways

  • First

    81% of youth and 86% of young adults who have ever used tobacco reported their first tobacco product was flavored

  • Current

    80% of youth (ages 12 to 17) current tobacco users and 73% of young adult (ages 18 to 24) current tobacco users used flavored tobacco products

  • 13%

    Youth whose first tobacco product was flavored had a 13% higher prevalence of current tobacco use

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