November 3, 2016

University at Buffalo Examines Association between Use of Flavored Tobacco Products and Quit Behaviors in Adults

What, if any, association exists between first use and current use of flavored tobacco products, and current flavored tobacco use and quit behaviors among US adults?  Those are questions a group of researchers, including Ms. Danielle Smith, a University at Buffalo doctoral student and senior research associate at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, set out to answer in a recent study published in the peer reviewed journal Tobacco Control.

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[Photo: Ms. Danielle Smith]

“Researchers have long known the impact that flavor additives have on uptake, palatability and continued use of tobacco,” says Smith, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in community health and health behavior from the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. “However, we were not aware of studies examining quit behaviors in relation to use of non-cigarette tobacco products containing ‘characteristic flavors’ like fruit, candy or alcohol.”

Ms. Smith also notes that many studies examining tobacco products and flavoring characteristics have focused on youth and young adult tobacco users as opposed to adult populations.

“While many studies have examined the impacts of characterizing flavors in teen and young adult populations, few studies have extended such concepts to a nationally representative population of adult tobacco users.”

Ms. Smith, along with research project leads from the University of Illinois at Chicago and collaborators from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, administered a nationally representative, telephone-based survey in 2012 to 1,443 US adult tobacco users.  The survey asked about use of nine tobacco products:  cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, little filtered cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco and snus.  To assess quit attempts, one question was administered to all respondents who reported current use of one or more tobacco products at the time of the survey.

“What we found was tobacco users who reported first using a flavored tobacco product had a greater likelihood of being current tobacco users, and using a flavored tobacco product at the time of the survey,” explains Ms. Smith.  “We also found those who reported exclusively using at least one flavored non-cigarette tobacco product had reduced chances of trying to quit using tobacco.”

The study findings, according to Ms. Smith, line up with the researchers’ anticipated outcomes.  However, she clarifies that additional research is needed to explore temporal relationships between quit behaviors and flavored tobacco product usage. “While this study cannot directly speak to whether flavorings in tobacco products cause or sustain later tobacco use, or directly inhibit quitting tobacco, our findings do suggest that self-reported initial use of flavored tobacco products is strongly related to current self-reported tobacco product use.”

“In short, the fact that consumers can choose to purchase tobacco products that contain added flavorings matters. This may have an effect on overall trial and use of tobacco, and potentially, efforts to quit using tobacco. ”

This post originally appeared on the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health website.