CDC Survey Finds Flavors Not to Blame for Teen Vaping


by James Bickford

Updated: July 14, 2021

CDC teen flavors

Results of a survey the CDC conducted in 2019 found that teens are not attracted to vaping because of flavored e-liquids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the results of the National Youth Tobacco Survey last week to little fanfare from mainstream media outlets.

Blame Curiosity

When asked what it was that attracted them to vaping, a majority of young adults answered it was simple curiosity that led them to e-cigarettes. Flavored vapes or e-liquid was the answer of around 22% of respondents, which was about the same percentage of teens who said that they enjoyed vaping because they could do tricks.

The top four reasons young people gave for why they started vaping according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey:

  • “I was curious about them” (55.3%)
  • “Friend or family member used them” (30.8%)
  • “They are available in flavors, such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate” (22.4%)
  • “I can use them to do tricks” (21.2%)

The Kids Are Alright, Parents Not So Much

The NYTS has been looking into the tobacco-use patterns of youth since 1999. The results come at a time when public perception of vaping and e-cigarettes is at an all-time low. This past summer, EVALI or e-cigarette and vaping associated lung injury, hospitalized thousands and left more than 50 people dead.

EVALI was preceded by a significant rise in teenage vaping, in which some public health experts took the extraordinary step to label an “epidemic.” A lot of the blame for such high teenage vaping rates was put onto so-called “flavored” e-liquids that were supposedly created to entice young people into vaping.

Flavors and marketing practices making e-cigarettes sexy and fashionable were the two pillars that many parents, health experts, and government officials blamed for vaping skyrocketing among young people. Of course, none of these concerned groups bothered to ask young people why they vaped. They only projected their theories onto them.

Until now.

Too Little Too Late?

The release of the results of the NYTS come after:

  • The FDA imposed a partial ban on flavored vape cartridges excluding menthol and tobacco
  • Eight states – Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington – have proposed banning flavored cartridges
  • Three states – Rhode Island, Utah, Washington – have bans already in effect, while prohibitions in other states are currently fighting legal challenges

The New York State Supreme Court recently granted an injunction to prevent a proposed ban on flavored vapes from taking effect. Governor Cuomo said that he would introduce a bill in the state legislature to ban flavors anyway, citing “unscrupulous vaping companies” who “target” teens with flavors.

Despite the release of not one, but two, CDC studies – the other lays the blame for the EVALI outbreak squarely on Vitamin E acetate – that directly contradict the hysteria surrounding the last few months, not a peep has been made about this by the media. Elected officials, concerned parents groups, public health experts have also not commented on the CDC’s findings.


But, of course, all the interested stakeholders in the vaping debate would not comment on the CDC’s findings. Doing so would mean walking back all their now-defunct arguments about evil vaping companies trying to addict their kids to nicotine with flavors like cotton candy and bubblegum.

It seems strange that people believed only teenagers are attracted to flavorful things as if taste buds disappear as you get older. Isn’t it possible that adults also enjoy cotton candy and bubblegum? Or do grown-ups only eat or drink things that taste like tobacco and menthol?

Will Cooler Heads Prevail?

The three states that have flavor bans in effect do not say how long the bans will last. The CDC also reported that the cases of EVALI have dropped. The agency, though, is still cautioning young people and pregnant women from vaping.

Juul has already restricted the sale of all its flavor pods save for the menthol and tobacco flavors, so no word on when Mango and Creme Brulee will be back in the mix. While the FDA instituted a ban on all flavors, the act applies only to pre-filled cartridges, because apparently, the kids do not like open tank systems.

Much was made about how “flavors” were what attracted kids to vaping. It was spoken about as if it was a given. No one ever presented any evidence that this was the case, and now that there is evidence, no one is talking about it. The reasoning that flavored vape cartridges somehow “targeted” minors was always flawed, now we have the data to back it up.

But who knows if people will listen.

Published: January 18, 2020Updated: July 14, 2021

James Bickford

My way of understanding the significance of vaping came not only through the disruption of smoking but its effects on society as a whole. Now I bring people to vaping and bring vaping to people. I love using new gear, writing in-depth reviews and generally nerding out about vaping to like-minded people.


Leave a comment

2 comments on “CDC Survey Finds Flavors Not to Blame for Teen Vaping

  • Mike Martinez

    September 2, 2021 at 9:47 pm

    Teenagers nowadays are getting addicted to vaping, what is happening to this generation?

  • Mike Martinez

    July 21, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    I also think that flavors attract teenagers. Teenagers finds flavors like bubblegum and cotton candy yummy and thus opting for vaping for those flavors. This needs to be stopped as this is becoming an addiction practice for teenagers nowadays.