Loom bands and gummy bears.

I have a confession to make. Yesterday I bought 3,000 loom bands on Ebay. Of course I told myself that no one would actually know that I don’t have loom band aged children but the fact is I don’t. I bought them having been told what to do with them by a passing 8 1/2 year old and found the action of weaving multi coloured elastic bands into multi coloured stretchy string somewhat calming and perhaps even habit forming.

If adults and children didn’t sometimes find the same things pleasurable, even if for differing reasons, it would be a surprise. We are all human afterall, with the same pleasure seeking tendancies. Of course loom bands aren’t consumed (normally), and present no problem in terms of an inherent risk of chemical addiction, and so probably don’t need marketing controls to keep them out of the hands of pleasure seeking adults. But is it ever right to deny either adults or children access to appropriate beneficial or pleasurable products just because the other group may also be attracted to it?

Since day one of my vaping journey I have used fruit and candy based flavours. I am not alone, recent surveys by Doctor Konstantinos Farsalinos and the Electronic Cigarette Forum both concluded that the majority of adult vapers prefer such flavours. Why wouldn’t we? Whilst as smokers or ex smokers we are used to the flavour of burning tobacco, it’s not something which can be accurately replicated in e-liquid, and is not necessarily desirable anyway. For many people sweet flavours create a distance between smoking and vaping and so can assist in preventing relapse. The availability of a variety flavours creates and maintains interest, and provides an advantage to the safer product over the much more dangerous alternative.

Some in Public Health either ignore or refuse to accept the fact that the e-cigarette industry, in marketing fruit or sweet flavoured liquid, are targetting the very large number of adult smokers who prefer those flavours and not children. Still smarting from their battles with the tobacco industry they incorrectly attribute that industy’s historical desire to hook new users to their product to the fledgling e-cigarette industry. They do so based on the premise that the tobacco industry is buying into the e-cigarette industry and cannot be trusted. They are partly right of course, many of the larger cigalike brands have been snapped up by the tobacco industry in their efforts to catch up. But those companies typically only sell two flavours – tobacco and menthol. The tobacco industry owned firms are only just now tentatively dipping their toes into the fruit or sweet flavoured liquid market.

It’s pretty much a given that kids will want to try anything, and yet we do not seem to have a problem with fruit and sweet flavoured alcoholic drinks such as vodka and schnapps. NRT itself is available in cherry, “freshfruit” and mint flavours, and available to buy online for anyone aged 16 and over. Oh and those 16 year olds can buy it for 12 year olds. Why is NRT marketed in these flavours? No one is suggesting that Johnson & Johnson are attempting to attract an army of nicotine dependent children to ensure the continued success of their product. The answer is simple. Both Johnson & Johnson and the e-cigarette industry recognise that there are millions of adult smokers to attract, and those adults like nice flavours.Ever seen tobacco flavoured NRT gum?

It is also entirely possible (or at least as possible as any of the anti e-cigarette scare theories) that the availability of flavoured e-cigarettes will prevent the transition from e-cigarettes to cigarettes by those experimenting with them. If it is true that smokers smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar, why would anyone in their right mind reject juicey peach in favour of burnt leaves and tar filled lungs?

Whilst there are some who will say that given the fact that nicotine has a risk of harm profile similar to caffeine there is no reason to restrict access to it at all, many people would not consider it desirable for children to become dependent on nicotine. Apart from the fact that there is some evidence that nicotine has an effect on the developing brain, they are not old enough to make a decision to take on what could become a life time dependency*. But the answer is not to restrict flavours to the extent that the product becomes unattractive to adult smokers. That would simply result in a black market which would be far more accessible to children than reputable vendors, and a considerable number of adult vapers would return to smoking. The answer is education and the appropriate and proportionate regulation of marketing.

So back to those loom bands – anyone want a multi-coloured stretchy ecig lanyard?

*There is some discussion on the risk of dependency attributed to nicotine containing products. Whilst cigarettes appear to be highly addictive, patches are said to present a very low risk for dependency. It is not known where on the scale other products lie. Read more on the subject here:

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