Vaping has come a long way since the first-gen e-cigarette hit the market back in 2003. Public perception, legislation and how vaping products are adopted by consumers varies significantly across three of the largest markets in the world. The UK, Canada and USA have all seen a huge uptake in vaping in the last five years and with that, several changes in both regulations and how vaping tech is sold and advertised.
You can hardly mention the USA vaping market without mentioning Juul. As of December 2018 the pocket-sized pod kit is dominating the states with more than a 70% market share and has a 16 billion dollar value. The high strength nicotine salt e-cigarettes have been across the headlines for a variety of reasons. The FDA have been investigating Juul, seizing thousands of documents to evaluate their sales and marketing practices. The whole issue stemmed from concern over a “teen vaping epidemic” and the practice of “Juuling” becoming a trend amongst highschool students.
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Since then, Juul have pulled their mango, creme brulee, fruit and cucumber pods from convenience stores and now exclusively sell them online. Florida state have a flavour ban on quality e-liquids which will come into effect January 2019. The FDA are now planning to follow suit and are proposing a ban on any flavours that could be considered appealing to an underage market. This is in an attempt to squash underage vaping over concerns it will lead to lifelong addiction or adoption of cigarette smoking. Despite this, a study from Georgetown University Medical Centre has found that teens are less inclined to smoking with 1.37 million teenagers having smoked combustible cigarettes in 2015 compared to 2.39 having vaped. In 2013, cigarettes were almost three times as popular as e-cigarettes.
At present, e-cigarettes are still classified as a tobacco product despite containing no tobacco, only nicotine. This means manufacturers can’t advertise or promote their products in any capacity.
How this adds up for smoking rates in America:
Despite falling smoking rates, smoking related illnesses are still one of the leading causes of preventable death in America. There are currently over 38 million tobacco product smokers in America. Similar to the likes of PHE and the NHS in the UK, America’s CDC (Centres for Disease Control) actively support the complete substitution of cigarettes with an e-cig as a safer alternative. While 1.1% of the US population vape daily, 15.5% of the population are smokers. With a reform in advertising regulations, keeping flavoured options for adult vapers available and enforcing age verification for in store and online sales the States could benefit the millions of cigarette smokers.
North of the American border, Canada have shifted their regulations in the opposite direction. In May 2018 Bill S-5 (“An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”) changed how vaping products could be sold and advertised. Providing they aren’t marketed as having “health benefits” they’re now legal to be manufactured and sold. Regulations prohibit sales to minors, advertising them a “lifestyle” product and certain flavours that are considered appealing to a younger market cannot be advertised.
They can be advertised as a safer alternative to smoking. Using fact based advertising that allows adult smokers to make an informed decision about whether vaping is a good option for them to use as a smoking cessation method.
How this translates to smoking in Canada:
Canada has a higher smoking rate than the USA, with 16.9% of the population smoking daily or regularly. The age group with the highest smoking rates were 20 - 34 year olds with men being more likely to smoke than women. Incidentally, 26% of 18 - 34 year olds have also tried vaping. Of these, 46% has tried an e-cigarette with nicotine and 3.2% of the population are regular vapers.
Statististics from BMJ Journals indicated that 82% of young smokers are aware of e-cigarettes and current use of an e-cigarette (use within the last 30 days) was at 42% in young smokers. The most common reason for trying vaping across the board for all age ranges was to quit smoking.
The UK is arguably the most vape-friendly place in the world. Part of the success and volume of early adopters in vaping can be attributed to the advertising and research promoting vaping as a safer alternative to smoking. Campaigns like Stoptober and Vapril as well as support from PHE (Public Health England) and the NHS have helped educate existing smokers to the benefits of using vaping as a smoking cessation tool.
As recently as November 2018 the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) reviewed policies regarding the advertising of vaping products. After consulting with a number of governing health organisations and public health charities have followed Canada’s example and vaping products can now legally be advertised. The regulations are similar in that e-cigarettes cannot be promoted as a healthy option, rather as a safer option than smoking conventional cigarettes.
The UK also has a number of regulations enforced by the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and EU regulations. There are limits placed on things like nicotine strength, the size of e-liquid bottles containing nicotine and tank/atomiser size. Despite this, vaping is thriving in the UK.
How regulations have affected UK vapers and smokers:
With an estimated three million vapers and 9.4 million smokers, the number of vapers has grown four-fold from 700,000 since 2012. Statistics indicate that after 90 days 36.5% of transitioning smokers has completely switched from smoking combustible cigarettes to vaping. Of the approximate 3 millions vapers in the UK, 1.5 million of these people have stopped smoking entirely. With regulations on e-liquids only applying to those containing nicotine, both online vape shops and high street stores are flourishing. This regulation has seen a development of a new short fill juice market; 0mg liquids that are available in bigger bottles.
Despite the UK having stringent regulations regarding e-liquids and only just updating their advertising policy, they’re one of the fastest adopters of e-cigarette technology. In Canada, while there’s a higher number of smokers, there’s also a higher percentage of people using e-cigarettes on a regular basis to quit smoking. Conversely, with its flavour bans, reduced capacity to educate consumers and huge Juul market the US lags behind in uptake in vaping compared to the population of smokers.