Flavours Not Needed

Posted 11th October 2018 by Dave Cross
In a letter to The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal, M. Ward-Peterson and W. Maziak (Florida International University, Miami) write “For Smoking Cessation, E-Cigarette Flavours Aren't Required”.

The pair plies their trade in the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health. Their pay-walled letter carries a combination of ridiculous statements and laughable propositions.

They begin by mocking recommendations contained in an unpublished study, one that suggests “that e-cigarettes’ benefits outweigh their risks” and that “where the goals of preventing initiation are at odds with the goals of promoting cessation … favour should be given to the goals of cessation.”

This is, claim Ward-Peterson and Maziak, because the suggested model “was likely influenced by pharmaceutical industry interests.” The pair contend that balancing the needs of smokers with protecting children from becoming addicted to nicotine “is easier said than done”.

Consequently, they write: “It should be noted that age restrictions for purchasing [vape products] are already in place, yet we are witnessing an epidemic of [vape products] use among youth in the U.S.”

Regurgitating the hysterical and nonsense FDA position does not lend this letter any credibility at the outset, but then they head into the meat of the matter – their proposal to ban flavours in eliquids.

“Adults prefer unsweetened and unflavoured products” - Ward-Peterson and Maziak

They claim:

  • “Flavoured e-liquid products are known to be appealing to youth”
  • “Studies have shown that flavours plays a key role in adolescents’ curiosity”
  • “Studies have shown that flavours plays a key role in adolescents’ initiation”
  • And, “recent evidence indicates that sweet fruity or dessert-flavoured products are favoured by youth”
  • … because, “adults prefer unsweetened and unflavoured products”

Where did this preposterous belief come from? The pair cite a single study published on the PLOS website. Maybe they didn’t see the big results table (shown below)?

That study used “396 adolescent, past-month e-cigarette users from 5 Connecticut high schools who completed an anonymous, school-based survey in Fall 2014 and 590 adults”. Quite why they didn’t refer to Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos’ exceptionally comprehensive flavour study is anybody’s guess.

An excerpt from one of Farsalinos’ tables is shown below:

Ward-Peterson and Maziak then discuss JUUL (obviously) and make a suggestion about how Juul Labs could carry out their mission to help adult smokers: “Surely JUUL should be able to carry out its stated mission without the variety of flavours that make these products appealing to youth.”

The pair concludes: “In the face of such an epidemic and with a lack of clear evidence about the benefits of e-cigarettes as a cessation tool, their effects on youth initiation should take centre stage. At the very least, we may agree that while flavours are not essential for adult smokers’ quitting efforts, they are critical in attracting youth to e-cigarettes and need to be prioritized for regulation.”

In an excellent article for the Daily Caller, Carl Phillips talks about how tobacco controllers forget about evidence and truth in their puritanical quest. He wrote: “Tobacco controllers were ‘post-truth’ before post-truth was cool. Post-truth is not just about lying, but about gaslighting — causing people to systematically doubt what they can easily observe and thus paving the way to create a false ‘reality’.”

If such awards existed, Ward-Peterson and Maziak’s letter would raise the trophy for most idiotic contribution to the harm reduction debate during the whole of 2018. It’s another example of tobacco controllers practising science denialism and lying in the pursuit of an ideological outcome. They should be ashamed.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker