The NIDA Blog Team
October 23 2015

Flavored Tobacco Infographic

Vanilla, cherry, chocolate, grape, apple, cotton candy, banana split, bubble gum. These could be flavors from your local ice-cream shop. They (and many others) are also flavors used in many e-cigarette fluids (often called “e-liquid” or “e-juice”) as well as popular tobacco products like hookahs.

Something that comes in a variety of fun-sounding flavors may seem like it should be okay to consume. How dangerous could they really be?

That depends. Many of the e-cigarette companies are adding these flavors to liquid nicotine to make them appealing to young people. Will you fall for that? Liquid nicotine with flavors is just as unhealthy as its plain cousin. But if a flavored product says it contains no nicotine, is it safe? We simply don’t know. It’s still made with chemicals, and why risk inhaling them into your lungs?

Known—and unknown—risks

How many teens are trying the flavored nicotine e-cigs? According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 70 percent of middle-school and high-school students who have used a tobacco product or an e-cigarette in the past 30 days have used at least one flavored product during that time. E-cigarettes were the most commonly used, followed by hookahs and cigars.

Even though the jury is still out on how harmful e-cigarettes are, they have definite health consequences, whatever the taste. For starters, research has found they may be as addictive as regular cigarettes. Another study found that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely than others to smoke regular cigarettes, and use other tobacco products, when they’re older.

Also, the aerosol (vapor) created by e-cigarettes contains chemicals at concentrations (amounts) that are toxic. We do know that the liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes also can cause nicotine poisoning if a person accidentally drinks, sniffs, or touches it.

Not so tasty

E-cigarette manufacturers don’t usually state the levels of specific chemicals they include in the liquid nicotine. Which means that the flavors in e-cigarettes are like a smoke-able version of “mystery meat.”

What about flavored hookah products? With or without added flavors, hookahs are nothing more than inhaled tobacco smoke—same as cigarettes. Again, companies might use the flavoring to entice you, it’s up to you whether you take the bait.

Several makers of e-cigarettes are branding their flavors, so that one brand has a different name for, say, its cherry-flavored product than a different brand does. But whatever the name, the risks are the same. Flavors and catchy brand names are just a gimmick to sell you the same old addictive product.

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