Bubble pop? Brownie batter? Vapes’ added flavors fuel e-cigarette debate

A heated debate is redrawing alliances in the tobacco control movement as federal officials wrestle with how to regulate the growing e-cigarette market.

The players include researchers, smoking-cessation advocates and “vaping” connoisseurs.

“It’s become very divisive in a community that was largely united against Big Tobacco,” said Samir Soneji, an associate professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, who researches tobacco control policy.

The Food and Drug Administration took a preliminary step in March, seeking public input on what flavors could be added to battery-powered nicotine devices, which can taste like cinnamon rolls or strawberry milkshakes. E-cigs do not contain tobacco.

The comment period, which so far has generated more than 16,000 statements, will close on June 19. But many bureaucratic hurdles remain before a final rule will be issued.

One school of thought argues that e-cigarettes — specifically ones that taste good — help people quit tobacco.

But opponents maintain there is little evidence — especially from studies done on large groups of people — to support this idea.

Critics emphasize the risks to adolescents, who for years have heard anti-tobacco messages highlighting cigarettes’ unappealing taste and smell. Sugary vaping flavors bypass this argument and lead some parents to worry these products are a gateway to tobacco use — even though selling to minors is illegal.

The limited data make regulation tricky, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Kaiser Health News. The agency may end up commissioning new research before developing policy............

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