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    Restricting flavoured vapes could harm smoking cessation efforts, finds study

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    Restricting the choice of flavoured vapes could have an adverse effect on the many adults who use them to reduce or quit smoking, according to a study.

    As the UK prepares for a general election in a few weeks, both the Labour and the Conservatives said they will revive the Tobacco and Vapes Bill after the election, which contains stringent restrictions on vape flavours.

    In the University of Bristol-led study, published in the journal Harm Reduction, researchers aimed to understand how UK adults who smoke, or used to smoke and now vape, feel about unflavoured e-liquids and how potential flavour restrictions might impact them.

    The team recruited 24 adults ranging in age from 19 to 62 years. Of these, 12 adults smoked daily and 12 adults vaped daily but had stopped smoking within a year prior to the study (as daily vaping is strongly associated with smoking cessation). The group included two adults who smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day and two adults who vaped daily but used to smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day.

    Participants were asked to use an unflavoured vape for four hours instead of their usual flavoured e-liquid. They were then asked to complete a survey and participate in an online interview giving their thoughts on whether they would be tempted to use them again.

    Results found the participants had mixed opinions about unflavoured e-liquids. While some felt unaffected by the lack of flavours, others thought it might lead them back to smoking. Many of the participants described the unflavoured e-liquids as unenjoyable or thought they were ‘alright’.

    Overall, while many participants thought flavours played a crucial role in their vaping behaviour, especially in trying to quit smoking, other factors like nicotine dependence, social influences – given vaping’s trendy image –  and health perceptions were noted as important drivers. Participants in this study generally believed a flavour ban would negatively impact smoking cessation efforts more than it would prevent young people from vaping.

    “While flavour restrictions might reduce youth vaping, our interview responses suggest that they could also discourage adults from using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, potentially leading those who vape return to smoking and leading more people who currently smoke to continue smoking,” Dr Jasmine Khouja, the study’s lead author and lecturer at Bristol’s School of Psychological Science, said.

    “There are also concerns that people may try and get flavours from abroad or make their own flavours, which may expose them to toxicants or chemicals that have not been approved for use in vapes. Policymakers need to consider these varied impacts if the UK government decide to ban flavours in vapes.”

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