The e-cigarette industry has been increasingly viewed as one of the most disruptive changes in the tobacco market, with vapes now commonly perceived as an alternative to traditional tobacco products.
In my own survey of 781 adult vapers, 83 per cent of whom were vape enthusiasts, I found that about 90 per cent were ex-smokers and viewed e-cigarettes as a tool to help them quit smoking — a habit that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the biggest causes of preventable deaths worldwide.
Yet an industry that emerged as a potential alternative to traditional tobacco, and was once populated with smaller independent manufacturers, is now dominated by Big Tobacco.
The reason is clear: E-cigarettes are now a multi-billion dollar industry and present a massive growth potential of double digits annually. By controlling this business, Big Tobacco effectively controls its own competition.
Today, some of the most popular e-cigarette brands are owned by Big Tobacco, leading to the industry’s partial transformation into Big Vape.
Given the explosion of e-cigarettes, the increase in the unregulated manufacturing of eliquids in China and their questionable impact on health, there has been mounting pressure to regulate them just as traditional tobacco products are.
Regulations similar to those for cigarettes
Suggested regulations include restrictions on their sale to minors, a ban on vaping in public places, testing and labelling requirements and restrictions on advertisements and online selling. Compliance with many of these regulations would take several years and would be costly.
And so Big Tobacco has been lobbying against these regulations — and the independent players are anti-regulation as well. Interestingly, while Big Tobacco and independent companies fight it out for market share, little emphasis has been placed on what the actual consumer prefers in terms of regulations. Vape enthusiasts, after all, are among the most active consumer segment in this industry.
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