The NNA is a registered UK charity staffed by consumer volunteers, formed to increase understanding about the benefits of “new” risk-reduced nicotine products and a better recognition of long-term recreational use of nicotine as a powerful incentive for smoking cessation. It called the press conference at the Global Forum for Nicotine, taking place in Warsaw last week.
The event was chaired by the NNA’s Martin Cullip, a transport company director who uses e-cigarettes and other reduced risk nicotine products and has seen positives from his staff members quitting or reducing their smoking through vaping.
He said: “E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking. The UK boasts 1.7 million former smokers who have converted from smoking to exclusively vaping instead. Flavours have been a big driver of that success, by distancing smokers from tobacco and providing an incentive to switch, with a wide selection of different options to suit their preferences.”
James Dunworth, co-founder of E-Cigarette Direct and prolific blogger, spoke about how he witnessed his mother’s success finally came about by switching to vaping – something he said was being mirrored throughout the world. He said: “said: “Vaping works because it's fun. Take the pleasure out of vaping and it will stop working. Key to that pleasure is flavour. Because of demand, there are a huge number of flavours, meaning there's something for everyone - and when someone finds their perfect flavour, they’re highly unlikely to go back to smoking.”
James argued that if you remove flavours it ceases to work and gave the example of a gentleman who had suffered a stroke and lost almost all of his sense of taste. That he’d finally switched from smoking thanks to a barbeque flavour was testament to the power of consumer choice.
“It worries me that top down control stops the industry from responding to consumer demands – which risks derailing something that has helped millions of people escape smoking,” he added.
Nancy Sutthoff is one of the founders of and co-directors of AVCA NZ - the first consumer only advocacy organisation for users of electronic cigarettes, and other SNP, in New Zealand. She said: "The availability of choice is what makes using safer nicotine products so effective - especially when it comes to flavours. Most people who switch go through a learning curve, and a range of flavours that the individual enjoys make the process simpler and more enjoyable. Personally, I know that being able to vape a flavour that I enjoyed helped me immensely in leaving behind my tobacco habit.”
“Taste is subjective,” Nancy continued, “this is why it is important to have these options to pick from. What may work for me may not work for you.” She explained how tobacco flavours are not popular in New Zealand, with vapers preferring fruit or bakery juices. “It’s important for people to switch and stay switched.”
Dr Sharon Cox, Research Fellow at London South Bank University, has over ten years’ experience working in the drug and alcohol field, including working at front-line services with some of the UK’s most deprived communities. She has a special interest in harm reduction and the use of translational methodologies in vulnerable and marginalised groups.
Dr Cox, said: “Policy needs to reflect real user behaviour, be context specific, make best use of evidence, and involve consumers to serve the public to make informed choices. The evidence suggests flavours are one of a few key components, important to both the new vaper and the experienced vaper, which help people abstain from smoking.”
She believes, “we need regulation based on the information we do have, not hypotheticals – that informs sensible policy. The research we’ve done shows that flavours are important to the trajectory.”
The trajectory starts with tobacco, then progresses, “to the AHH moment, ahh that’s lovely. Flavours keep people interested in vaping. Smokers like smoking, they just wish it didn’t harm them. Flavours have a role in relapse prevention. They keep people interested in the product.”
Final speaker Dr Christopher Russell works for the Centre for Substance Use Research, leading its research programme assessing prevalence, patterns and perceptions of use of specific e-cigarette brands among adults, young adults and adolescents, and the impact of using these products on the population’s use of smoked tobacco products.
Dr Russell said: “There is growing evidence that suggests adult smokers increasingly prefer to use vapour products that are not flavoured like tobacco. Evidence from our own research suggests that a significantly higher proportion of smokers who prefer to vape non-tobacco flavours go on to completely quit smoking cigarettes within three months.”
“Restricting adult smokers’ access to flavoured vaping products would therefore very likely result in fewer smokers trying vaping as an alternative to continuing to smoke, in substantially fewer smokers attempting to switch to vaping, and ultimately, in substantially fewer smokers succeeding in their attempt to switch to vaping.”