Flavored cigarettes have been aggressively sold by tobacco companies for a relatively short time. Just 10 years ago, tobacco companies hardly marketed them. In 2019, however, in some countries, they are the main type of cigarettes consumed by young people. The case of Chile is an excellent example of this trend: in 2008, these products were virtually unknown, but by 2018, market data show that Chile has the largest market penetration of these products in the world (close to 40%). According to a survey among smokers conducted in 2017 in Greater Santiago, Chile, funded by the American Cancer Society, 60% of smokers under 25 years old consume such products. In the case of young women, it was 72%.
A recent study, published in PLoS One, shows that the probability of consuming these products is related to sex (the probability is significantly higher for women) and is inversely related to the age of the smoker (younger people are more likely to smoke flavored cigarettes). In addition, it shows that these products are significantly more expensive than conventional cigarettes. This could indicate that they are consumed by people of higher socioeconomic status, although the evidence for this is not yet conclusive.
The rise of these products, not only in Chile (the other countries in the top five of global market penetration are Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Argentina), suggests strongly for the need of urgent regulation on the use of flavorings. These products are designed to attract a young population that will then continue to use tobacco, some for life, thereby hindering the enormous efforts that some countries are making to control the tobacco epidemic. In Chile, for example, until the rise of flavored cigarettes, tobacco excise tax policies to push up cigarette prices were helping to curb youth initiation and drive down prevalence overall. Particularly to protect young people, laws that prohibit the use of additives, including all flavorings and other substances that increase tobacco use, are needed.