Whatever the shortcomings of the CDC report, it's undeniable that vaping has become "a thing" with cool teens. That's raised alarms in the tobacco-control community, especially since vapor products, unlike cigarettes, are allowed to be flavored -- to taste like, say, banana cream or cotton candy. "Do you have any doubt when you look at the flavors [that the industry is marketing to kids]?" asked Jackler, the Stanford physician.
Many adult vapers insist that they are the target for e-liquid flavors (there's even evidence supporting that the flavors help adults stay interested and satisfied by vapor products). But it's hard to buy that argument when you look at the marketing for some of these products. Bad graphic design abounds, and it often caters to juvenile interests: scantily clad women, innuendo, and pop-culture references. The resulting aesthetic is like a cross between a Hoobastank album, a bunch of henna tattoos, and a rejected poster design for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.
Vaping advocates I spoke to recognize that this is one of the industry's Achilles' heels. "If you're standing in front of the California Health Committee," said Green, the business-owning YouTube star (who lives in San Diego), "and they hold up a bottle that looks like a Twizzlers but it's 'Vapez-lers!' you're like, 'Ah, shit. Yep. I can’t defend that.'"
If manufacturers are deliberately courting the kids, you'd never get them to admit it. But the sophomoric marketing makes it easy for vaping's detractors to depict the industry as malignant, and the vaping world doesn't seem to care. As Aaron Biebert, director of the soon-to-be-released vaping documentary A Billion Lives, put it, "As a group, [vapers] don't understand how terrible they look."