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  1. Advancing Regulatory Science

How consumers use flavors to make inferences about Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) product qualities and intentions to use

CERSI Collaborators: Meghan Moran, PhD; Ryan David Kennedy, PhD; Lauren Czaplicki, PhD

FDA Collaborators: Izabella Zandberg, PhD; Sarah Trigger, MPH; Martha Engstrom, MS; Michael Sawdey, PhD 

Project Start Date: June 2018
Project End Date: November 2018

Regulatory Science Challenge

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also called electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vaporizers, have been regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2016. Given the recent introduction of ENDS products to the tobacco marketplace, limited research exists to inform the regulation of their marketing. Flavors are an important aspect of ENDS and are commonly reported by both youth and adult ENDS users as a main reason why they use ENDS. ENDS use a liquid (“e-liquid” or “e-juice”) that is available in a diverse range of flavors, including tobacco flavor, menthol, mint, fruit flavors, dessert flavors (e.g., crème brulee, funnel cake), spices (e.g., cinnamon, vanilla), alcohol (e.g., strawberry daiquiri, bourbon, Irish crème), candy (e.g., gummi bears, cotton candy), and other flavors. Both youth and adult ENDS users commonly reported that flavors are a main reason why they use ENDS. Flavors are a regulatory area of interest, and in 2018 FDA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) “to obtain information related to the role that flavors play in tobacco products,” with a specific interest in how flavors can lead to youth product initiation. This CERSI project was meant to expand the study team’s ongoing work that examined how ENDS advertising tactics are used to convey flavors and affect consumer’s perceptions about the product and their intentions to use these products.

Project Description and Goals

The objectives of this project were to create an experiment to examine how different features used to advertise ENDS flavors were associated with (a) product appeal and (b) intentions to use the product among adolescents (13–17-year-olds) and young adults (18–24-year-olds). These aims were accomplished by creating an experimental survey instrument which would obtain product perceptions and use intentions in response to different advertising tactics, such as using flavor-related images or adding flavor descriptors or modifiers to flavor names. Adolescent and young adult study participants would view different ENDS ads with and without key features (e.g., the use of flavor-related images); the use of flavor descriptors (e.g., ‘cool,’ ‘fresh’); and the use of flavor name modifiers (e.g., cherry crush). This approach was meant to provide evidence as to how specific advertising features used to represent ENDS flavors affect product perceptions and intentions to use ENDS.

Results and Outcomes

Flavors are an important product feature attracting young people to ENDS, and advertising is a keyway consumers learn about these flavors. The activities conducted in this project may be used to inform and support an experiment designed to test the effect of advertising tactics used to convey flavors. Ultimately this information could be used by FDA Center for Tobacco Products to inform regulations related to flavors in ENDS marketing.

No publications or presentations resulted from this project.

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