As cigarette smoking continues its decline; the popularity of vaping shows no sign of slowing down. The booming market has given rise to a new industry of vape liquid suppliers, blenders and ‘mixologists’, modern day alchemists who can create an endless stream of novelty flavours, from strawberry sherbet to sour apple, transforming a modern day habit into a personal lifestyle statement.
In the three years since he co-founded vaping retail company Vape Superstore director Ed Swain has witnessed this remarkable growth first hand. He says: “There has been significant growth in terms of the numbers of retailers and online stores entering the market. A lot of that has been driven by reports from organisations like Public Health England; with headline findings that vaping is 95 per cent healthier than smoking. As a result, seeing people vaping on the street has become more commonplace.”
A fourfold increase in the number of vapers since 2012 when the figure was 700,000
A recent survey by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found an estimated 2.9 million adults in the UK currently use electronic cigarettes, a fourfold increase in the number of vapers since 2012 when the figure was 700,000.
Not only is vaping seen as a healthier alternative to smoking, it has been recognised as an effective aid in giving up cigarettes, which has had the support of the health care industry. In last year’s Stoptober campaign, the NHS, for the first time, actively highlighted vaping as a way to kick the habit.
Studies have also shown that while exposure to second hand cigarette smoke is harmful, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders.
“Another significant factor has been the move by chemists and high street retailers to stock vaping kits and liquids; a clear sign that they see it as a genuinely healthier product that can help people quit smoking,” says Mr Swain.
He speaks from first hand experience; he and his Vape Superstore co-founders were all smokers who saw vaping, not only as a good business opportunity, but also as a means of helping them give up cigarettes.
In 2015 they set up a website, and as the business grew, began opening stores – Vape Superstore now has seven based in London and the southeast – and over the last couple of years sales have increased year on year.
New regulations introduced last year, which brought e-cigarettes and vaping into the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), threatened to slow market growth. In addition, manufacturers of vaping liquids are required to notify products to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with detailed information including the listing of all ingredients.
“Everyone thought the changes would slow things down, but that didn’t happen,” says Mr Swain. ‘There are more companies than ever entering the market, developing new vaping tech and liquid brands, providing pretty much any flavour of e-liquid that you want.”
The all important task of creating the liquids in their myriad of flavours falls to the specialist ‘vapologist’, whose combined creative and technical skills have made them highly sought after by manufacturers and their laboratories, and in many ways, as influential as the restaurant wine sommelier.
The specialist ‘vapologist’, whose combined creative and technical skills have made them highly sought after
Mr Swain says: “The UK lab that manufactures our vaping liquids will create any flavour we want. We offer a huge choice of flavours, from classic British desserts, like rhubarb and custard, and strawberries and cream, to more niche flavours such as gin and tonic, champagne cocktail and Earl Grey tea.”
Vape Superstore’s own stores have effectively been transformed into tasting bars, where people can try out new flavours and vape juices, and enjoy hanging out with friends and making it a social experience.
“Some people enjoy vaping on the same juice day in day out, they find a single flavour and they’re happy. Others like variety and vape flavours that complement whatever they are doing, whether that’s drinking, enjoying a meal, or just relaxing,” says Mr Swain.
According to the ‘Global E Cigarette & Vaporizer Market – Analysis & Forecast’ report, the global e-cigarette and vaporiser market is poised to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 20.8 per cent to reach approximately $61.4 billion by 2025.
Not surprisingly major tobacco brands such as Phillip Morris and British American Tobacco are entering the market, making acquisitions of retailers and liquid manufacturers, and in some cases, launching their own vaping device.
Mr Swain adds: “For people who really want to quit cigarettes there is now a viable alternative that works. Advances in technology have made the kits much easier to use and given vaping mass-market appeal. We are pretty proud of the fact that we have helped a lot of people who were smokers to quit the habit.”
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