Fruit Flavor Fallacy
The fruit flavor fallacy has been a favorite zombie vaping myth
for years. It is based on the faulty premise that fruit flavors and dessert ejuices exist to hook minors. They have been blamed for fueling what is framed as the teen vaping epidemic
. This fallacious argument is undermined by the fact that legal age vapers, the vast, undisputed and overwhelming majority of the market, also prefer sweet flavored e-juices.
The fruit flavor fallacy gained even more traction last year when the FDA
went after e-juices with flashy packaging that resembled the sugar coated cereals and sugary candies that the 1980s and 90s are still famous for. The missed the memo that this packaging was retro. While it is true that many of these items are still available, their packaging remains unchanged in order to maintain a portion of their fast dwindling market share.
Critics may claim e-juices with candy and breakfast names are marketed to minors. But the minors they target are actually nostalgic, middle aged adults.
FDA E-Juice Packaging Crackdown
The wisdom of completely mimicking food packaging is debatable. It garnered a lot of negative attention and provided great soundbites for critics of vaping.
But would over e-juice packaging and flavors be as great if savory flavors were preferred by adult vapers? Would the FDA crackdown on e-juice labels that resemble Manischewitz Gefilte Fish jars or the classic Andy Warhol Campbell soup can?
The flavors of sweet flavored e-juices are naturally going to resemble the products whose flavor profiles they mimic. And the evidence shows that adults are the ones demand these flavors and drive the market. If former smokers wanted pickle flavored e-juice, it goes without saying that the bottles would resemble a Clausen label.
Throwback Labels Target Nostalgic Adults
The fixation on cereal, candy and sweet vape juices also overlooks a salient issue: in the majority of cases, the product packaging was designed to appeal to a minor circa 1986-1996. In other words, they were being designed by and marketed to older millennials and Gen Xers.
Yet that did not stop the FDA
from cracking down on e-liquids that were “misleadingly advertised as Food Products”. This was the spearhead of an attack on e-juices and have been used to justify the virtual e-cig prohibition
laws that are working their way through various legislatures.
Retro E-Juice Packaging
If you have seen any mainstream coverage of vaping, you have probably seen critics wheel out the hoary old trope about e-juice packaging that looks like candy. Yet the most vilified ejuice packages have a decidedly retro feel. Companies aren’t designing products to resemble what is trendy with today’s high school students, but are harkening back to the fond memories of today’s middle aged smoker and vaper.
Yet you find ridiculousness like this
written with a straight face: “Bubble gum. Blueberry cotton candy. Candy corn. Gummy bear. Swedish fish. Sounds like flavors of your kid’s favorite candy, right? But did you know they are also appealing flavors for e-cigarettes amongst tweens and teens?”
With the possible exception of “Gummy Bear”(sic), these were the candies of a 1960s childhood. It may be hard for vaping critics to accept this, but times change. The delights of your childhood are no longer beloved.
Totally Rad Flavors
Juul caught plenty of flak for naming a flavor Crème Brulee. The upscale, French inspired dessert peaked in popularity at least 2 decades ago. You don’t need a focus group to figure out who is being targeted with that name. A quick google search reveals that Crème Brulee is also the name of a line of Laura Mercier skin care products. Available at Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and other retailers not frequented by teenagers. I wonder what percentage of Laura Mercier’s customers are under the age of 21?
If you were to believe the Truth Initiative, nothing says “Graduating Class of 2019” like the image of a child dunking Nilla wafers in milk, presumably while watching the moon landing or a Sunday night Colombo special on NBC. These are just a few examples of e-juices that supposedly target kids according.
Gummi Bears moved from the candy aisle to the television back when Reagan was still in office. Sour Patch kids paid for many a dentist’s vacation, but it probably wouldn’t have been to Eastern Europe. Glasnost was in the air but the Cold War had yet to wind down.
I am not arguing that e-juice packaging should be allowed to resemble candy or sugar coated cereal. All I am asking is that some common sense be used when evaluating the target of retro packaging and sweet e-juice flavors.
Teen Vaping Epidemic
Perhaps children are being deceived by a constellation of products that would look at home in a 1980s candy aisle, or on a Saturday morning cartoon commercial. But could there be another explanation for the spike teen vaping? It seems just as likely that that the development of highly potent nicotine salts and easy to conceal devices also played a role.
Maybe today’s underage vapers aren’t that interested in trading Garbage Pail Kids cards, singing the Cinnamon Toast Crunch jingle, waiting for Cocoa Puffs to turn the milk brown or slaking their thirst with Capri Sun juice boxes. Could they be looking for the biggest nicotine punch possible in a device they can hide from their parents.
Much of the controversial e-juice packaging that the FDA cracked down on was designed to elicit a positive response from adults who grew up with these products. In almost every case, they resembled a product that was heavily promoted, launched and peaked in popularity decades before today’s high school seniors were born.
Marginalized Groups Harmed By Vaping Bans
While sweeter ejuice flavors are popular with minors, this popularity runs across all demographic groups. Flavor bans and ecig restrictions harm marginalized groups
but do nothing to address the underlying cause of teen vaping. The wealthy have largely given up smoking. As a result, vaping is underrepresented in the circles where these calamitous decisions on access to cigarette alternatives are being made.
The upshot is not that e-juice packaging should be unregulated and that making boxes that resemble candy, cereal or food is a great idea. It is simply that the critics have missed the boat with their lazy, counterfactual analysis.
Minors Not Welcome at Vapor4Life
At Vapor4Life, we have no interest in selling our products to minors. We have implemented strict age verification policies using Veratad, the industry standard. We also card anyone who enters our Northbrook vape shop. Our target audience is adult smokers looking for an authentic alternative to cigarettes.