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Too Much Fluff Over Flavors

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

People of all ages delight in a big ball of spun sugar clinging to a paper cone. The United States has so much love for this fluffy treat that National Cotton Candy Day is celebrated twice each year: July 31st and December 7th. Cotton Candy is also known as candy floss and fairy floss and this delicious treat has been with us for more than a centuryBeyond the traditional spun confection, all-natural and kosher cotton candy versions are available. Adults created and enjoy cotton candy burritoscheesecakegrapes, and macaroni 'n cheese. Cotton candy is served with foie gras and bacon.


Some people assume that anything that tastes like candy is meant for children. That is far from the truth. In the United States, 65 percent of all candy is consumed by adults. Besides the sugary treat, adults enjoy age-restricted cotton candy-flavored products such as winemargaritas, and vodka.

No one is accusing candy-flavored adult products of marketing to children until the topic of tobacco harm reduction products (THR) enters the conversation. The irony is there are countless examples of suggestions to use candy to help adults quit smoking. The American Cancer Society (ACS), American Lung Association (ALA), American Heart Association (AHA), Truth Initiative, and the pharmaceutical industry all endorse candy or candy flavors for smoking cessation.

Only the pharmaceutical options are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for smoking cessation. Yet, candy is readily endorsed by the above public health organizations to help people quit smoking. While those same organizations slam consumer THR products for not being FDA approved for the same purpose.

It is hypocritical to see organizations such as the ACS, AHA, ALA, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Parents Against Vaping E-Cigarettes (PAVe) push to ban the sale of flavored THR products that have helped millions of adults quit smoking. Regrettably, these efforts have pressured lawmakers to initiate actions that could harm Americans who smoke by denying them one of the most effective options to stop smoking. It is a painful irony that there is a desk famously full of candy on the floor of the US Senate.


While groups try to steamroll through a ban on the products that help adults quit smoking, they have failed to insist on the enforcement of the federal law that prohibits the sale of nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21. In addition, they neglect to pressure the FDA to clamp down on illicit sellers who greedily peddle vapor products on sites such as TikTok.

Sellers on websites like TikTok boldly claim that they don't verify identification and ship in discrete packaging, often in bundles where a vapor product can be hidden with unrelated items. They often invite youth to hook up with them on other forms of social media. No outraged parents and public health groups are raising awareness of these illicit sellers and the websites they are selling on. There is a void of press releases issued by the FDA about warning letters sent to websites to shut down illicit sellers. Nor has the FDA threatened to involve the Department of Justice to take action against those websites.

Too much fluff is floating around accusing manufacturers of flavored adult THR products of marketing to children. Accusations are not proof. While it may be easier to pretend that banning flavors will stop youth use, a plethora of contraband sellers proves that youth will find a way to access products not meant for them. While youth should not use adult products, history has shown teens experiment. Data indicates that bans on flavored THR products will lead youth to substitute by using tobacco-flavored options or, even worse, smoking instead.


Meanwhile, flavored products have proven they help adults quit smoking. It shouldn't matter if an adult uses a candy-flavored product to achieve smoking cessation. For the benefit of adults who smoke, and public health, let them use whatever flavor they want. Their lives depend on it. The unintended consequence of banning flavored THR products is the potential to increase the number of people who smoke deadly cigarettes, including youth. We need less fluff about banning flavored adult THR products and more stuff about helping people stop smoking.

Kim Murray is a Consumer Center Research Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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