Rethinking Flavour Bans: Alternative regulatory options to address the real issue of preventing youth appeal

Flavour diversity is integral to the acceptance of nicotine pouches among adult smokers. Instead of outright flavour restrictions, NNPA suggests regulating flavour descriptors and marketing to mitigate potential appeal to underage individuals.

How products taste is an element that defines whether people will choose to use them. Oral-use products risk facing complete rejection from consumers since there is no natural flavour in tobacco-free pouches. Consequently, restricting different flavours in nicotine pouches presents an acute challenge since appropriate flavourings hold greater significance for oral use products compared to those inhaled.

A flavour descriptor tends to be less precise and more suggestive than specific flavours themselves: it serves a useful purpose by providing a broader image or concept that encapsulates a range of sensory details without pinpointing one exact flavour. For instance, a descriptor like ‘smoky’ suggests a deep, rich, and earthy profile that can include nuances of wood, charcoal, or toasted elements. ‘Bubble-gum’ suggests a playful, sweet profile that could overlap with various fruit flavours, which might be catering to an adults per se; at the same time, its youthful and cheerful connotation has a potential to unduly attract underage consumers which makes bubble-gum an unsuitable descriptor for a nicotine product.

Since we lack objective and scientific standards to distinguish between flavours, singling out and restricting supposedly juvenile flavours is ill-advised. Already to define “flavours” as such is almost impossible from a regulatory perspective. If regulators are concerned about the potential appeal of different flavours to young people, a more effective approach is to restrict the communication and reference to specific flavours on packaging and in marketing. Marketing nicotine products as “bubble gum” pouches significantly differ from providing pouches with the taste of various fruits.

NNPA Positions:

  • Any restrictions deemed necessary to curb underage appeal should focus on unsuitable flavour descriptors and similar criteria such as references or illustrations on packages and in product marketing. There is no need to use flavour names or descriptors that can be linked with youth culture or depict situations, environments or objects that are typical of the world of children and youth, such as comic or cartoon characters, toys, or sweets.