Flavour restrictions ‘have little impact’, while ‘pods may beat mods’ for cessation

The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) held its annual get-together in Baltimore, Maryland last week and – as usual – published a huge number of research abstracts to accompany it (notwithstanding some controversy over the exclusion of industry research). In disciplines from medicine to sociology to economics, and taking in themes from Covid to cannabis, many of the papers will be of particular interest to the e-cig sector.

Here are some highlights, with their ID numbers so they can be easily located in the SRNT’s very long list.

First, the war on vaping may not be going entirely to plan.

SYM4-3 finds that “flavor restrictions on cartridge-based e-cigarettes in the US had little or no impact on the usual flavors used by youth vapers. Youth appear to have circumvented the US flavor restrictions by using brands and devices exempt from the restrictions.”

SYM8-3, meanwhile, observes that “among young adult never tobacco users and infrequent experimenters, Puff Bar’s ‘tobacco-free nicotine’ claim may increase positive expectancy and reduce negative expectancy and harm perceptions towards using Puff Bars.”

And PSI-74 concludes that “Pod e-cigs may be more appealing and have a greater effect on cigarette smoking than Mod e-cigs”.


E-cig taxes hinder the war on smoking


Mind you, the war on smoking has its own problems, as POD15-1 reports: “Evaluation of the federal T21 law at the one-year mark shows it has the potential to reduce ease of tobacco access, but intensified efforts are needed with compliance. Over 4 in 5 US middle and high school students who attempted to buy cigarettes in the past 30 days were successful.”

E-cig taxes may not be helping there. According to POD7-2, “ENDS taxes were associated with reductions in ENDS use but increases in cigarette use among emerging adults. As uptake of daily use disproportionately occurs in this age-range, this result calls for care in setting tobacco product taxes, to ensure that regulations do not inadvertently incentivize habituation of more lethal tobacco products.”

There’s much worth reading beyond narrowly vape-oriented topics, too, including some new ideas in smoking cessation and tobacco control.

SYM5-2 suggests “promising results for psilocybin in comparison to transdermal nicotine patch when both are delivered in combination with CBT” (cognitive behavioural therapy).

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Join in to hear about news, events, and podcasts in the sector

    See more

    POD13-7 and PS1-7 both look at NicoBloc, “a novel, non-pharmacological liquid applied to the filter end of a conventional cigarette that blocks 33% of tar and nicotine with one drop; three drops blocks up to 99%”.

    And PS1-30 considers “dissuasive cigarettes”, sticks supplied in unattractive colours or carrying warning messages. The results for them weren’t so promising: “Although dissuasive cigarettes may be less favourable than cigarettes without off-putting health warnings and colours, in the current study they do not appear to markedly reduce appeal or increase perceptions of harm compared to a regular cigarette.”


    News, fake news, and social media


    Another paper, SYM18-5, contemplates a different way of encouraging quitting, by demonstrating a “proof of concept for translating key basic science findings into a genomically-informed risk tool that can be implemented to promote progress toward smoking cessation. Implementing genomic risk in the healthcare setting with patients and providers has the potential of accelerating smoking cessation.”

    Indeed, the importance of the information that reaches consumers is a theme running through much of the research presented at SRNT.

    Some of this relates directly to e-cigarette products: for instance, POD2-6 proposes that “on-pack reduced-risk messages could make transition more attractive to smokers than the current addiction warning featured on e-liquids. Increased-risk messages could deter ENDS use among susceptible non-smokers, occasional and former smokers.” (You decide whether that’s a good thing.)

    But it also relates, of course, to the bigger issue of nicotine awareness. PS1-104 “provides evidence of the role of social media in both disseminating as well as dispelling misleading and potentially harmful misinformation about nicotine and suggests a role for counter messaging…addressing misinformation about nicotine is important, as it appears to be associated with more favorable views of the tobacco industry which may erode public support for effective regulation.”

    That may depend on what you consider “misinformation”, of course, but either way – as POD12-7 puts it – “the repetition effect increases the believability of claims about tobacco, and the effect is generally stronger for false claims compared to true claims. This underscores the importance of strategies to inoculate people against misinformation and calls for interventions that can stop the repetition of newly generated false claims.”

    False claims over smoking, tobacco and nicotine…who’d a thunk it?

    – Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff

    Photo: Horst Winkler

    • Do you want more information about the US flavour restrictions? You can now download for free our full regulatory briefing “Letters to lawmakers urge action on PMTAs, flavours and synthetic nicotine” using the form at the top of this page.

    Barnaby Page

    Editorial director
    Before joining ECigIntelligence in early 2014 as one of its first employees, Barnaby had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and online services, working in Canada, the US and the Middle East as well as his current British location. He has edited publications covering fields including technology and the advertising industry, and was launch editor of the first large daily online news service in the British regional media. Barnaby also writes on classical music and film for a number of publications. Barnaby manages the editorial and reporting teams and works closely with the analyst teams, to ensure that all content meets high standards of quality and relevance. He also writes for the site occasionally, mostly on science-related issues, and is a member of the Association of British Science Writers.