They come in flavors like Skittles, doughnut, chocolate and watermelon.

Halloween treats, right?

Wrong! They’re Big Tobacco’s tricks for getting kids hooked on their products.

Tobacco companies hand their consumers (with a healthy fee, of course) sweet flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products that are colorfully packaged just like candy. Sometimes sugary snacks and their tobacco lookalikes even share counter space in stores (tricky).

The tricks don’t end there. E-cigarette manufacturers use thousands of combinations of ingredients that make kid-friendly flavors — including menthol, fruits, chocolates, candies and cocktails like piña colada — and those flavors are being marketed successfully to kids and teens.

Thankfully, there is a treat (in the form of research) following these tricks. Researchers at  Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and University of Rochester Medical Center will be investigating the role of flavors in e-cigarettes and how they impact our health over the next five years thanks to a $19 million federal grant.

Internationally recognized tobacco experts Richard O’Connor, PhD, (left) and Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, are leading Roswell Park’s research. CREDIT: ROSWELL PARK

One object of their investigation will be flavors featured in e-cigarettes made by Juul Labs, maker of the uber popular brand that has become as cool for a teenager to hold as an iPhone. The evidence gathered will be used to inform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about future regulation.

Juul e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular, especially among young people.  CREDIT NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO

Regulation is a key word on the subject of e-cigarettes and their flavors. Up to now, the FDA has not set any directives on how e-cigarettes are produced or marketed. But that’s about to change.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb last month said teen use of e-cigarettes has turned into an “epidemic of nicotine addiction,” while announcing a crackdown against retailers for allegedly selling vaping products to those younger than 18. Gottlieb ordered the industry’s top five companies to submit detailed plans for stopping sales to minors, threatening them with removal of their products from the market.

Crackdown and detailed. Now that’s a flavor combination we can really sink or teeth into.