For the past 9 years we have run a predictions post, with experts from different fields and different regions sharing their perspective on the future of vaping. This year's, which will be published next week, is better than ever, with some truly superb write-ups and analysis from our predictors.
It’s a big article, though, and not everyone will have time to read the whole thing. So for this post I’ve pulled out 7 key themes from the predictions, which provide an overview of the big ideas for vaping in 2022.
1. There will be (more!) regulatory challenges ahead
Jim McDonald of Vaping 360 has written a thorough overview of US regulations. These include a ban on posting vape products and an approval process which changed the bar at the last minute - so far, just one archaic product has been approved. It’s not just the US where regulation is a problem - from Australia to Latin America, poorly thought out rules are putting barriers between smokers and safer nicotine alternatives.
Meanwhile, Martin Cullip of the Taxpayers Alliance warns that even in the UK we need to be wary, highlighting calls by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) for plain packaging and a ban on some flavours.
2. Synthetic nicotine will be used to circumvent regulations
Problems are often caused when regulators who don’t have an in-depth understanding of a product create regulations for that product. In the EU, for example, large bottles of zero nicotine e-liquids are used to circumvent regulations, despite the fact the EU was asked about zero nicotine in the consultation process for Tobacco Products Directive II.
The same’s now happening in the USA. New regulations apply to nicotine from tobacco, but not from synthetic nicotine, even though it has been around for years. This may be subject to a regulatory crackdown in 2022.
3. The black market will explode
Basic economics tells us that demand plus prohibition lead to a black market. This is already happening in areas like India and Australia - and Claudio Teixeira of The Vaping Today says the illicit market in South America is unstoppable.
Countries may be keen to restrict vaping, but enforcement is often half hearted. The black market is also likely to grow in the US, which seems to have learnt little from its disastrous experiments with prohibition. Unfortunately, this means substandard and even dangerous products will be sold to smokers who want to quit.
4. Big tobacco could gain control of the alternative nicotine market in the US
Big Tobacco has some skin in the game already with vaping, but their big play has been HeatNotBurn (HnB), which gives them higher profit margins and barriers to entry.
HnB has been successful in countries where nicotine vaping has been banned (such as Japan) but far less successful in countries where vaping is popular. Jose Becerril and Shane MacGuill of Euromonitor believe that harsh regulations will mean that heated tobacco becomes the main alternative to cigarettes in America.
5. Disposables are going to be a problem
Paul Hare (ex Innokin, now VP at Sunnakin) focussed on the environment and the damage lithium batteries cause at the point of extraction, manufacture and disposal. This is particularly the case with disposable e-cigs, when a lithium battery which could be used many times is thrown away after one use.
Paul calls for more care so that vaping can be better for the environment as well as for smokers’ health. He also highlights the difficulty in investing to improve vape technology when cheap disposables are taking so much of the market.
6. The tide is turning (in some places)
Samrat Chowdhery (Association of Vapers India) sees a change taking place in Asia. There are growing calls for harm reduction in India, while the Philippines has called out attempts by the Bloomberg Foundation to meddle in its policies. Tim Phillips of E-Cig Intelligence also highlights positive developments, such as both the EU and the USA admitting vaping can benefit existing smokers.
7. Vaping will be unstoppable (but it may take a while!)
As Professor Etter said in the first E-Cigarette Summit: “Vaping is a tsunami - you can not stop it with a law.” That’s a common theme running through many of the predictions. Clive Bates of The Counterfactual believes the drivers of technology “will slowly change the market, moving steadily but irresistibly like the earth's tectonic plates.”
Dr Alex Wodak (Harm Reduction Australia) is also hopeful Australia will embrace harm reduction - though it might take a few years. Dr Glover thinks we could see some anti-vaping advocates changing tune - and then claiming responsibility for the success of vaping and falling smoking rates. Professor Sweanor points out that the smart money is already betting against Big Tobacco, adding: “Markets have a very long history of overcoming obstacles placed in the way of disruptive technology.” Professor Stimson (KAC) agreed, saying:
“The question is not whether safer nicotine products will replace cigarettes and other harmful tobacco products, but when.”
Look out for the full predictions next week!