Studies show teen e-cigarette users favor Juul products, mint flavors as Trump considers ban

Studies show teen e-cigarette users favor Juul products, mint flavors as Trump considers ban
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Most kids who vape use Juul products and say fruit, mint and menthol are among their favorite flavors, according to two studies published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The studies come as the Trump administration prepares a ban on the sale of flavored vaping products to combat record-high vaping rates among teenagers. Vaping advocates are pushing the administration to exempt mint and menthol flavors from the ban, which is expected to be released any day now.

An estimated 27.5 percent of high school students, and 10.5 percent of middle school students, said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month, according to one of the studies conducted by government researchers.

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Among those that said they used e-cigarettes, 59 percent of high school students and 54 percent of middle school students said Juul was their “usual” brand.

Juul dominates the e-cigarette market in the U.S. with their sleek, flash drive-shaped devices and has been blamed by some for spurring a growing teen vaping “epidemic" with misleading advertising and kid-friendly flavors.

“The popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like USB flash drives and other similar devices likely has contributed to youth uptake,” government researchers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in the study.

“These devices can be used discreetly, may have a high nicotine content, and come in flavors that appeal to youth.”

The study estimates that 4.1 million high school students, and 1.2 million middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.

Teens are most likely to use fruit, menthol or mint flavored e-cigarette products, rather than vapes that taste like tobacco, according to the study.

Of the high school students who said they currently use e-cigarettes, 66 percent reported use of fruit-flavored products; 57 percent said they used mint or menthol flavored products.

That’s why the Trump administration is preparing to ban the sale of non-tobacco flavored e-cigarette products.

The White House review of the FDA guidance was completed Monday, indicating it could be released any day. Planned meetings with stakeholders were also canceled, angering vaping advocates.

It's not clear if the guidance will include a ban on the sale of mint and menthol flavors. The FDA and White House have faced growing pressures from vaping advocates, who argue flavors are beneficial to adults who use the products to quit traditional cigarettes.

"It is deeply concerning that they would not even take the time to hear from countless organizations that requested and had meetings confirmed," said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, who had his meeting canceled this morning.

"There are positives to menthol being exempted, but ultimately it will do very little to stem the tide of store closures and adult smokers deciding to smoke rather than vape." 

But the studies released Tuesday suggests teens are using mint or menthol flavors at higher rates as fruit flavors become harder to find.

Juul announced it would stop selling fruit-flavored products in stores last year amid increasing scrutiny over its role in addicting kids to nicotine.

A separate study published Tuesday in JAMA showed mint was the most popular flavor for 12th and 10th graders who used Juul in 2019, while menthol was one of the least popular flavors.

Those findings from researchers at the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota raise “uncertainty” about whether “regulations or sales suspensions that exempt mint flavors are optimal strategies for reducing youth e-cigarette use," the study says. 

Anti-tobacco advocates argue the studies prove the administration should ban the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, with no exemptions for mint or menthol. 

"These findings underscore why the Trump Administration must stand strong and implement its plan to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. 

"If menthol or any other flavors are left on the market, the evidence is clear that kids will move to them and this epidemic will continue.”

Updated at 4:38 p.m.