Electronic cigarettes are a popular substitute for tobacco cigarettes. Instead of inhaling smoke, e-cigarette users inhale vapors from a flavored cartridge. These cigarettes usually use menthol or tobacco flavors to simulate the taste and feel of real cigarettes so that those users who are attempting to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes can satisfy their cravings with e-cigarettes. However, e-cigarette makers have recently begun making cigarettes that are flavored like bubblegum, cotton candy and other things that are appealing to children. This move is controversial because child-welfare advocates worry that children will be encouraged to begin smoking if they use e-cigarettes.
The tobacco industry has already been banned from marketing tobacco products to children. The industry is notorious for having used cartoon-like mascots to attract children’s attention, and in 2009 the FDA banned the sale of flavored tobacco. The tobacco industry had used flavored cigarettes to attract younger smokers, leading to an epidemic of smokers under the age of 25. Flavors such as strawberry, chocolate and lime were popular with teenage smokers, and young smokers believed that these cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes because of the appealing flavors. The FDA is currently looking at whether or not to ban menthol in cigarettes, as this flavor is also popular with younger smokers.
While there is currently no legislation pending to ban e-cigarettes, the federal government may decide to ban flavored e-cigarettes for reasons similar to the reasons that it banned flavored tobacco cigarettes. According to Discovery Fit and Health, there is no evidence either way regarding the safety of e-cigarettes. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/10-facts-about-e-cigarettes2.htm). If e-cigarettes turn out to have health risks, younger smokers may think they are safer than they are because of the flavors. This was the reason that flavored tobacco was banned.
A ban is more likely if the federal government decides to ban menthol from cigarettes. The reasoning behind the proposed menthol ban is that menthol is an attractive flavor to younger smokers and therefore carries the same risks as strawberry, cheesecake or chocolate flavored cigarettes. If the government decides to ban menthol as a flavor in tobacco cigarettes, it may also ban it in e-cigarettes, on the grounds that it is too attractive to younger smokers.
In any event, the federal government would probably have to pass new legislation giving the FDA power to regulate tobacco-free cigarettes before e-cigarettes could be regulated in this manner. Currently, the FDA has the authority to regulate marketing of tobacco cigarettes, though not ban the cigarettes themselves. This is what gave it the authority to ban flavored tobacco. If the government did want to ban e-cigarette flavors, it would probably take several years to get legislation passed and ban the flavors.
It’s not likely that e-cigarette flavors would be banned on the state level, as the banning of tobacco flavors occurred on the federal level. However, states do have different laws regarding tobacco cigarettes such as laws about smoking indoors, so individual states could ban e-cigarette flavors if they want to.
New York Times: Flavors Banned From Cigarettes to Deter Youth
Discovery Fit and Health: 10 Little-Known Facts about E-Cigarettes