The Food and Drug Administration (US) has issued its second statement in seven days on the subject of tobacco products.

Following last week’s publication of a proposal to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes, FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb has announced fresh plans to prevent young people from starting to smoke.

Flavours in tobacco products are being investigated by the agency to better understand their impact on young people who take up the habit.

However, the public health agency also acknowledges that flavours may be helping adults to switch from cigarettes to “non-combustible forms,” like e-cigarettes.

Dr Gottlieb says,

“It’s important that we also explore how flavours, under a properly regulated framework that protects youth, may also be helping some currently addicted adult cigarette smokers switch to certain non-combustible forms of tobacco products.”

He adds that he has discussed the matter with former smokers, who informed him they were able to quit smoking thanks to flavours they now vape.

“When it comes to flavors in non-combustible products like electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes we recognize the issue involves additional considerations … We’re aware that certain flavors may help currently addicted adult smokers switch to potentially less harmful forms of nicotine-containing tobacco products.” 

“I’ve talked to ex-smokers, who’ve told me that they quit cigarettes altogether and that they now vape … [they] told me it was the flavours that helped them make that transition.” 

The main aim of this proposed initiative is to prevent experimentation with flavour progressing into nicotine dependence in youth. The FDA is now calling on all stakeholders to share data and research into the role flavours play in initiation, use and cessation of smoking tobacco products.

“Because almost 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 18 [US], it’s imperative we look at new ways we can ensure that kids don’t progress from experimentation to regular use.”

Concerns around flavours are not new. The menthol debate is ongoing on both sides of the Atlantic and according to the FDA, there is sufficient data to suggest that flavours in tobacco products “appeal to kids and promote youth initiation.”

According to this statement, those who begin to smoke in their youth are more likely to prefer menthol.

“There’s evidence indicating that youth tobacco users who reported their first tobacco product was flavoured had a higher prevalence of current tobacco product use compared to youth whose first product was not flavored. Additionally, youth and young adult smokers are disproportionately more likely to smoke menthol than non-menthol cigarettes.”

Dr Gottlieb also reveals, “More than 2,300 youth under the age of 18 years smoke their first cigarette and nearly 1,900 youth smoke their first cigar,” everyday.

The American public now have 90 days to comment on the proposal before any significant progress can be made.

For more from the latest FDA proposal, click here.