Flavored Tobacco and Nicotine Use Among California Adolescents: Preferences by Use Experience and Survey Format Effects


Candice D. Donaldson, Elizabeth T. Couch, Kristin S. Hoeft, Monica L. Wilkinson, Claudia Guerra, Stuart A. Gansky, Xueying Zhang, and Benjamin W. Chaffee

October 1, 2023

This study assessed flavored tobacco use among adolescent e-cigarette, cigarette, cigar, hookah, and smokeless tobacco users; specific e-cigarette flavor preferences; risk profiles of youth that use various flavors; and the impact of survey question wording on prevalence. Cross-sectional data from 4,956 California adolescent participants (aged 12–17 years) in the Teens, Nicotine, and Tobacco 2021–2022 online panel survey estimated the survey-weighted prevalence of flavored tobacco use.

Some 88.1% of current any tobacco users reported flavored tobacco use in the past 30 days. Flavor use was lowest for cigarettes (66.7%) and highest for hookah (92.8%). Fruit was the most popular e-cigarette flavor (51.6% any use; 28.8% usual use). E-cigarette users also commonly reported use of candy and cooling flavors. Sweet flavors were used most often among adolescents otherwise at low risk of tobacco use. Survey item format did not meaningfully affect overall prevalence of flavored product use but did impact reports of specific e-cigarette flavors. Focus group participants described sweet and fruity flavors as a motivating factor in their own e-cigarette use and as designed to appeal to children.

Despite local policies, flavored tobacco use remains common among California adolescents. Survey items asking about any flavor use rather than usual use provide more information without affecting the overall prevalence of flavored tobacco use.