Predicting the future of vaping can be hard - but whether you’re in industry, research or advocacy, it’s also key to making effective decisions.
So every year we invite top experts from different countries, continents and fields to use their unique insight and expertise to peer into the future of vaping. (The extent of geography also means there is a bit of a switch between British and American spelling!)
This is a long post, so for those of you short of time, do check out our 7 big vaping themes, which sums up some of the key ideas from our predictors.
- Dr Alex Wodak, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association: What will happen to tobacco harm reduction?
- Lindsey Stroud, Consumer Centre Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance: Expect a busy year for US tobacco harm reduction advocates
- Chimwemwe Ngoma, Knowledge•Action•Change: Misinformation is a major threat in Africa
- Charles Gardner, INNCO: Flavour bans will lead to an increase in smoking rates
- Martin Cullip, Taxpayers Protection Alliance: Expect attacks on vaping at COP10
- Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, University of Patras: A critical year is ahead of us
- Dr Marewa Glover, Centre of Research Excellence: Vaping is working - but taxes and regulations could reverse enormous public health gains
- Louise Ross, NCSST & Smoke Free App: Vaping is becoming mainstream in the UK
- Clive Bates, The CounterFactual: The battle for control will reach breaking point in 2023
- Samrat Chowdhery, Association of Vapers India (AVI): Asia divided on Tobacco Harm Reduction, but outlook positive
- Harry Shapiro, KAC/Nicotine Science and Policy: 2023 could be a significant year for vaping
- Jim McDonald, Vaping 360: In the U.S., the gray market will keep growing
- Claudio Texeira, The Vaping Today: Under the Chinese gaze, a renewed Latin America will be the stage of WHO secrecy and segregation in 2023
- Brent Stafford, Regulator Watch: RegWatch reflections on The War on Vaping in 2023
- Jose Becerril, Euromonitor: Regulation hindering development of vaping products
- Imran Ismail, Doozy Vape Co.: Disposables are big now - but the future is nicotine salts
- Cédric Rijkers, Hexa Vapor: Regulations will drive users to the black market
- Wrapping Up
Dr Alex Wodak AM, Board Director, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association
I became involved in drug harm reduction in the early days of HIV during the 1980s when infections were spreading rapidly among and from high-risk groups. There was a nightmare scenario of HIV spreading to the low risk but huge general population. In those days we had no treatment for HIV and there wasn’t much prevention either. Large numbers of young people were dying agonising deaths. Controlling HIV among people injecting drugs was important in itself but was also the most important protection for the general population. We quickly learnt that it was imperative to keep strongly focussed; ‘nothing about us without us’ was crucial and so too was drug harm reduction - which meant never letting the best be the enemy of the good.
Most of my allies in the vaping debate see tobacco harm reduction through a tobacco control lens. But I see vaping through the lens of drug harm reduction where new interventions are always fiercely resisted, the resistance continues long after the evidence is overwhelmingly clear, eventually the new intervention is grudgingly accepted and later still greatly appreciated. This has been the trajectory of methadone and buprenorphine treatment, needle syringe programs, drug consumption rooms and many other new drug harm reduction interventions. The introduction of new harm reduction interventions is particularly difficult when the behaviour involves pleasure, that is, drugs and sex.
Vaping, heated tobacco products, snüs and nicotine pouches are not just harm reduction options but they are also disruptive innovations like digital cameras were for analogue cameras, smartphones were for earlier mobile phones, streaming was for compact discs and electric vehicles are now for cars powered by fossil fuel-guzzling internal combustion engines. So this issue also involves powerful market forces. Tobacco companies are anxious to avoid another ‘Kodak moment’. The overwhelming majority of nicotine consumers know combustible cigarettes are very dangerous and badly want to switch to much lower-risk products while continuing to enjoy their favourite psychoactive drug. Many, but not all, tobacco companies also want to switch to much less risky products while continuing to enjoy their obscene profits. But tobacco control perversely tries to slow or stop the transformation of tobacco companies which would rob them of their raison d'etre.
I wouldn’t have the courage to say that Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and the World Health Organisation will end up with egg on their face if I had not been through so many cycles of new drug harm reduction interventions over the last 40 years. In Ernest Hemingway’s novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’, Bill asked “How did you go bankrupt?” Mike replied “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” And that’s how tobacco harm reduction will succeed: gradually, then suddenly.
Lindsey Stroud, Consumer Centre Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
2023 is likely to be a busy year for tobacco harm reduction advocates. California voters overwhelmingly supported a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vapor products, and e-cigarette opponents are likely to use that in order to pass bans in other states. Notable states to keep an eye on include Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota and Vermont, but other states will likely see such bans introduced.
Another likely issue will be increases in state excise taxes for tobacco and vapor products. As it stands now, about 20 states do not tax vapor products but that is likely to change as opponents cling to youth vaping to block adult access to alternatives to cigarettes.
Most of what happens at the state level will be impacted by what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chooses to do in the following months. As we all know, the agency swiftly denied the applications for the majority of flavored vapor products, and was recently given authority to regulate synthetic nicotine products. As such, all new products were required to submit another premarket tobacco product application. Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of products in a regulatory limbo – i.e., they have not been issued an authorization order nor a denial order. As the FDA continues to delay, opponents will urge state and federal lawmakers to address e-cigarettes, usually with bans.
Unfortunately, alarmism about youth vaping continues to shape the narrative, yet state-specific data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still not available as lawmakers prepare for 2023 legislative sessions. It is imperative that lawmakers are informed of the factual data – something that us harm reduction advocates will have to do a good job in providing them with.
Chimwemwe Ngoma, Knowledge•Action•Change
It’s almost 2023, but some people, including some healthcare providers and government officials on the African continent, still believe and argue that vaping is just as harmful as cigarette smoking.
Misinformation about vaping, especially from health authorities, is dangerous and harms public health. On an individual level, it scares smokers away from lower-risk alternatives that can help them quit smoking and improve their health.
Just like many other low and middle-income regions, Africa sits at the receiving end of misinformation on vaping and safer nicotine products. This is further driven by the lack of independent harm reduction studies conducted on the continent. There is a general overreliance on the World Health Organisation (WHO). Most countries on the continent unquestioningly follow whatever the WHO says, without consulting or understanding the needs of consumers or conducting their own research and socio-economic impact assessments.
Misinformation about vaping has prompted some countries in Africa to rush to ban vaping products and others to adopt prohibitive regulations. These include exorbitant taxes and regulating vaping products and other lower-risk alternatives in the same way as combustible cigarettes. This is a missed opportunity; it ignores life-saving technologies and keeps people in bondage and within the perimeter of smoking.
If vaping misinformation continues to flourish, and African countries don’t carry out independent research, I predict that 2023 will not be a year of progress and we will lose more countries to unscientific and prohibitive policies on vaping and safer alternatives.
The glimmer of hope, however, is that the continent has begun to engage in an open dialogue on science and health harm reduction, involving relevant stakeholders. Conversations like this make me hopeful that credible science will eventually triumph over misinformation and propaganda.
Charles Gardner, PHD, International Network of Nicotine Consumers Organisations
While none or few additional countries prohibit safer nicotine alternatives outright, more and more will prohibit nicotine vape 'flavors' in 2023. Because of the lag time, it will take a year or more before we start to see smoking rates increase in those countries (or, in the case of the USA, those states).
The good news is that more and more tobacco control experts will shift from sitting on the fence to tentatively or fully supporting consumer-safer nicotine alternatives like vapes, snus and nicotine pouches. But it may take years for journalists and the public to catch onto this ongoing trend in expert opinion, so the gap between perceptions and reality will widen.
COP10, in Panama City, may be a pivot point if enough safer nicotine advocates can get there in November 2003 to shame the World Health Organization FCTC for its lethal prohibitionist recommendations to member states. In the United States, FDA policies are a wildcard: more of the same or a complete reboot?
Finally, on a positive note, human stories of adult ex-smokers, who use safer nicotine alternatives not just to stay smoke-free but to stabilize their neurodiversity issues, will begin to gain traction in public perceptions.
Martin Cullip, International Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance
After all decisions were postponed at the WHO Conference of the Parties (COP) 9, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) COP 10 in Panama in November will be the mother of all COPs with Bloomberg money driving a full-on attack on reduced-risk products.
Proposals already include banning open vape systems, regulating devices so they are ubiquitously poor, bans on non-tobacco flavours, and treating all safer nicotine products the same as smoking.
We have seen the FCTC going further still trying to circumvent votes by national governments with secret committees, and I expect proposals that “go beyond” FCTC will continue to be promoted by the opaque and conflicted Secretariat, in an attempt to bypass scrutiny by democratic parties. The FCTC has always ignored harm reduction as a concept, but I expect they will be forced to address it at COP10, but only to redefine and undermine it.
By the time you read this, the EU will have published their proposals for minimum tax levels of vaping products. Still smarting at being beaten by consumers last time round, the Commission will go further reviewing TPD2 in 2023 and suggest repealing liberal regulations, introducing bans on flavours (as they have done with heated tobacco) and maybe plain packaging.
In the UK, what comes next is unclear. It could be good, bad or indifferent. I have a suspicion that a slightly more receptive approach to heated tobacco and nicotine pouches may reinforce the UK as a beacon of sense on THR, which would be a silver lining in a shameful year for tobacco control generally.
We on the side of the angels in the harm reduction debate have noted dark anti-progress forces gathering themselves for a worldwide assault in 2023, culminating in COP10. Consumers must be prepared for the fight.
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos: Researcher, University of Patras
The coming year will probably be the most critical in the recent history of tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes in Europe. The major issue that is being currently debated is flavours.
Any experienced consumer and researcher knows that flavours have a key role in the experience of consumers and are an essential component of e-cigarettes if we want them to serve as smoking substitutes. We are at the cross-road of important decisions that will determine the future role of e-cigarettes in public health. I think regulators are, in many cases, ignorant of the importance of flavours and are largely influenced by opponents of harm reduction and prohibitionists who see nicotine use, rather than smoking, as the key public health enemy.
In that respect, it is crucial that consumers raise their voice in an effort to explain to regulators what is at stake when making decisions about this public health issue.
Dr Marewa Glover, Director, Centre of Research Excellence, Indigenous Sovereignty & Smoking
After 30 years of working to reduce smoking rates in New Zealand, especially among the higher prevalence groups, I was overjoyed to see New Zealand Indigenous women’s smoking drop this year to below that of Māori men for the first time in over 46 years. The decrease is mirrored by a rise in vaping.
One worrying blip is that vaping among Māori men has dropped off and their smoking prevalence increased. My Voices of The 5% Percent study gives some clues as to what might be happening. Some Māori men in our study are being influenced by the misinformation exaggerating the risks of vaping in comparison to smoking. When faced with two behaviours misrepresented as equally harmful to health – why switch? The other possibility is that there are now more vaping products that appeal to women. In London for the ECig Summit last week, I noticed many women vaping. The colours of their devices really stood out – bright pink, red, azure, metallic multi-coloured. Slimline devices, easy to hold. Could we be seeing a feminisation of vaping? This isn’t a bad thing because women smoke too and the boxy, fiddly, earlier generation devices and vape shops did not appeal as well to some women.
Now, vaping products are sold in general stores, supermarkets. Disposables are easier to use, easier to match to one’s outfit or personality. The lower entry price, even if they are overall more expensive, has made vaping more accessible. They are clearly also effective substitutes for smoking and deliver sufficient nicotine to match what smoking used to do for people.
In the earlier years when vape products were sold through vape shops, even people who vaped promoted the goal of weaning down the nicotine level. But this sometimes undermined the effectiveness of switching. This recommendation doesn’t accompany the sale of the off-the-shelf disposables. Without expert peer advice to wean down, people are free to get the benefit of nicotine just as they did when they smoked – just without the same level of health risks. As a result, stopping smoking is more sustainable.
The other influential factor driving a more rapid switch to vaping among Māori women compared to Māori men, is the far cheaper cost of vaping compared to continued smoking. It’s simple economics. Māori women are over-represented among the lowest income earners.
The important lesson here is that any effective substitute for smoking that is also cheaper than smoking will work, it’s not necessarily only vaping. Snus in Sweden and Norway has achieved the same rapid reductions in smoking. Heated tobacco products have achieved the same change in Japan. Proposals to tax these greatly risk-reduced products or other regulation that will increase the cost of access, could reverse the enormous public health gains these products are delivering.
Louise Ross, Business Development Manager, Smoke Free app, Clinical consultant, National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT)
In 2022 I was asked to write a guide to stopping vaping, as part of my work for the NCSCT. I get quite twitchy when healthcare workers emphasise the stopping vaping rather than the benefits of vaping for as long as the person wants or needs to, but I realised that giving both users and frontline workers some sensible pointers about not rushing the process and keeping it user-led would prevent people making up their own unhelpful rules. The risk is driving people back to smoking, and I hope this publication, which can be added to when we get user insights, will help to steer a more supportive and compassionate approach to vaping in 2023.
My prediction is that pockets of doubt among smokers and healthcare workers will remain. Despite NHS England being extremely supportive of vaping, and citing the NICE NG209 guidance which puts vaping level with combination NRT as an effective and evidence-based method of stopping smoking, there will still be scepticism, fuelled by inflammatory media stories. (A big shout-out goes to the Science Media Centre where the team jump on each offending article, mobilising the tireless scientists and researchers who generously provide a fact-filled rebuttal.)
I also predict though that the growing stream of vape-friendly health services will become a flood; I have already seen, as I train frontline workers, an increase in the numbers of people accepting as a given that switching to vaping is a great way of stopping smoking. This is so different from even 2 years ago, when I was having to explain why. Now, attendees at training want to know how they can be more enabling and encouraging.
It's becoming mainstream, and we’ve waited a long time for this.
Clive Bates, The Counterfactual
There is a profound tension between the private and public sector response to vaping, and it’s a battle for control. I predict this tension will reach a breaking point in 2023.
In the private sector, control is with the consumers acting in their own interests and at their own expense, with producers responding with competitive innovation. In the public sector, control is exercised through law, regulation, and communications to shape attitudes and to create stigma or fear. Tobacco control is about, well, control. Tobacco harm reduction is about relinquishing control to consumers and innovators, then standing back while the messy and colourful marketplace makes cigarettes obsolete. For tobacco control, this model is countercultural and profoundly threatening.
Efforts to reassert control will be visible in the United States as the FDA continues to preside over a chaotic fiasco in its handling of vaping. But the FDA will be pursuing its menthol ban and taking the next steps to almost eliminate nicotine in cigarettes. New Zealand’s tobacco control establishment wants the same.
In the European Union, the Commission will try to impose its order on the tobacco and nicotine market by raising taxes and taking the opening shots in efforts to control flavours, primarily by banning them.
At COP-10, WHO and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will promote vape prohibitions and, if that doesn’t work, regulate safe products as dangerous rather than beneficial alternatives.
Pushing back, however, is the slow, steady movement of consumer behaviour, word-of-mouth endorsement, and actual results that even the most biased scientist cannot ignore. In the collision between the irresistible force of consumer preferences and the immovable mass of regulatory control, we will see the rise of unintended perverse consequences – more smoking and rise of illicit trade.
Welcome to the war on drugs, 2023 edition.
Samrat Chowdhery, Association of Vapers India (AVI)
2022 was a year of charged activity around tobacco harm reduction in the Asian region. China further developed domestic regulations while Malaysia and Indonesia too moved their regulatory processes further. Pakistan has brought Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) products (vapes/nicotine pouches) under the tax regime. On the flip side, WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies-led prohibitionist groups upped pressure in Bangladesh and Vietnam to ban safer nicotine alternatives; Cambodia issued a sales and advertisement ban.
The most significant shift however was in the Philippines, where lawmakers successfully fended off, and even called out, the meddling by these groups and passed a vape law that aims to balance the health interests of both minors and adult smokers. This sensible regulation by a developing nation in Asia can serve as an important counter to India and Thailand’s ban on safer alternatives.
Going forward, India is warming up to the idea of tobacco harm minimisation after a new health minister was appointed. NRTs have been included in the list of essential medicines and more medical professionals, policy experts, journalists and lawmakers are becoming aware of and speaking in favour of THR approaches. An expected boom in the black market and ready availability of cheap disposables, while expanding the user base, could lead to negative outcomes such as increased teen access and use and health hazards from counterfeit products, which sensible regulation could have avoided.
Being a FCTC COP year, we can expect amping up of the anti-THR rhetoric in this region which bears the highest tobacco burden. But greater awareness of risk-reduced products among authorities, higher consumer base, along with stronger supporting scientific evidence, are likely to dampen these efforts.
Harry Shapiro, Knowledge Action Change/Nicotine, Science and Policy
Future shooting is always something of a dark art, but 2023 could be a significant year. The reason is that COP 10 in Panama in November will be discussing the regulation and control of the full range of tobacco harm reduction products. My guess will be that at the very least, Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will be urged to treat everything as a tobacco product. This will be the easiest route for governments to take as most countries have some level of tobacco regulation in place.
If this happens, it will undermine the shameful attempts by the likes of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids to urge Young, Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) to ban products outright. Already a thriving illegal market is alive and well in Australia. But of course, controlling safer nicotine products as if they were cigarettes is dangerous nonsense flying in the face of all the independent evidence of relative product safety and efficacy in helping the transition away from smoking. The WHO makes delusional statements that billions of citizens are ‘protected’ from the dangers of smoking as evidenced by MPOWER monitoring programme. If the WHO and FCTC Secretariat get their way, no doubt billions more will be ‘protected’ from the evils of vaping thus ensuring that death and disease from smoking continues to rise.
On a more optimistic note, it would be good to see PMI using its acquisition of Swedish Match and global reach to promote appropriate oral products in Asia and the Far East where dangerous oral products predominate. Doctors will play a crucial role here as they have a high standing in LMIC, although nicotine literacy among health professionals is poor.
Jim McDonald: Vaping 360
In the United States, disposable vapes have taken over a large chunk of the e-cigarette market. And while most people recognize their drawbacks - environmental hazards especially - they also have undeniable benefits for vapers in a country dead set on restricting legal vaping products.
Disposable vapes are cheap to buy at wholesale, easy to ship and display, require no training to sell, and are available in a dizzying array of flavors and nicotine strengths. Disposables are practically built for gray market sales.
Black markets are underground economic systems in which illegal products are sold informally, without collecting sales taxes or following other legal niceties. Gray markets generally involve the sale of semi-legal products, but in legitimate outlets with normal bookkeeping and tax collection.
In January 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance for manufacturers that made pod-based vapes in flavors other than tobacco and menthol an enforcement priority. That meant mass-market manufacturers had to remove the most popular of their pod vapes from retail shelves or risk FDA action.
The FDA’s move spurred rapid growth of the nascent disposable vape market. Most of the successful early disposable products, like Puff Bar, were designed to look and perform like the pod vapes that had dominated the convenience store segment of the vaping market since the 2015 launch of the JUUL.
When the FDA began in 2021 to shadow-ban flavored vaping products through its premarket review process, many e-liquid manufacturers and vape shops were forced out of business. That created even more demand for c-store disposables, most of which did not even apply for FDA authorization.
While FDA marketing denials and enforcement actions - taken, of course, to “protect youth” - continue to shrink the legitimate vape shop market, importers of gray market disposable vapes can easily avoid FDA attention by simply changing addresses, suppliers, and product or business names.
In 2023, unless the vaping industry begins to make headway with legal challenges against the FDA, the expansion of the disposable gray market will continue unabated, and the traditional market of bottled e-liquid sold at vape shops will shrink even further.
Brent Stafford, Regulator Watch
The federal government’s proposed national flavor ban in Canada is a specter haunting the vaping industry. First proposed for consultation by Health Canada in June of 2021, there’s been no movement or resolution to the proposed ban for nearly 18 months. During this time, Health Canada launched a legislatively mandated review of Canada’s national vaping regulations, which focussed solely on a single metric: youth vaping. And in a move that seems to acknowledge vaping in Canada is too popular to ban, the federal government instituted a national excise tax that doubles the cost of most vaping products, bringing them close to parity with combustible cigarettes.
2023 will reveal the full impact of Canada’s new excise tax, which has already led to a contraction of the industry and no doubt will lead many to return to smoking.
The War on Vaping continues at a maniacal pace in the United States. This fall, voters in California approved a statewide ban on flavors in nicotine vaping products. Michael Bloomberg almost single-handedly bankrolled the campaign promoting the prohibition to the tune of $47 million, according to Politico. The entire campaign focused on protecting the children. And yet again, adult smokers and current vapers were thrown under the bus.
In 2023 Californians should expect a flood of unregulated disposable and counterfeit products at small retail everywhere.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continued its embarrassing and shameful mismanagement of the premarket tobacco authorization process. A few out-of-date, big tobacco-owned, and tobacco-flavored-only vaping products received market authorization from the FDA. While FDA denied the popular Juul brand market authorization, the FDA reversed its decision and bounced Juul back into review.
Shockingly we learned in 2022, thanks to internal FDA stakeholder comments in a review conducted by the Reagan-Udall Foundation, that FDA regulation of vaping products is in disarray and influenced by outside forces. And in some cases, scientific disagreement within the agency is being suppressed.
One inglorious hope for 2023 may redound to the popularity and ubiquity of the disposable vape. Prohibition won’t stop these products from getting to market. And likely they will prove vaping to be “too big to fail.”
Claudio Texeira, The Vaping Today
In the Latin American context, Colombia and especially Chile will be the countries that will stand out the most in 2023. They will see advanced regulatory projects that take into account the interests of safer nicotine users and of an entire socioeconomic chain that has developed over the years marked by the intransigence and irreducibility of prohibitionist and moralist political contexts and illicit markets.
At the same time, China's political-economic influence in South America is expected to grow. This allows China to occupy certain spaces in the political sphere, especially related to economic development. At the same time, it impels the United States to cling to its successful imperialism in the region.
So we will possibly see the beginning of a clash in the Latin American political backstage. China, which already produces more than 90% of the electronic cigarettes used in the world, is betting on its industrial expansion (in the first stage in Asia itself) and focus on exports. Latin America, lacking investment and development options and with a great industrial and market potential, could be attractive for a country that has the capacity to design both long and short-term policies, to contribute significant and sustained investments, and to promote policies that stimulate the sector as a whole. This could accelerate both innovation and trade in harm reduction products.
In contrast, expect continued pressure and interference from US organisations such as the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids and their well-funded local peers on authorities to opt for severe restrictions/bans on safer alternatives to nicotine consumption.
Next year will also be marked by the spectre of the FCTC/WHO Conference of the Parties (COP) in Panama City, where delegations from more than 180 countries and international and non-governmental organisations (carefully chosen) will meet in secret to decide the future of millions of people. There are strong indications that they can establish severe restrictions and prohibitions against vaping, in addition to going against the spirit of democracy, excluding press observation and social participation, selecting those who can be observers of their discussions, and denying knowledge of the bases that sustain the decisions that impact thousands of citizens from 180 countries, under the alleged threat of interference from the tobacco industry.
Unfortunately, 2023 will still be marked by the idea of the need to prohibit in order to solve; prohibition as a way of practising public policies; for the demonization of nicotine with hints of fundamentalism; by misinformation in the mainstream media and by the exclusive acquisition of information by the social networks of the general public; for McCarthyism in the field of health, for the denial of science and for the rejection of the voice of civil society.
Jose Becerril, Euromonitor
The development of the e-vapour space globally continues to be heavily reliant on legislation coming from the US, EU and China. With open vaping systems de facto banned from the US market and thousands of closed systems products unable to obtain authorization to remain on sale, including certain well-established vaping brands from major tobacco players, FDA’s reluctance to allow flavoured e-vapour products other than tobacco results in a highly restrictive e-vapour market comprised of few players with limited ability to innovate and promote their products.
Regulatory uncertainty and low public confidence are also damaging the sales prospects in the Chinese market. After banning flavoured e-vapour products and online sales, the establishment of a new tax on e-vapour products, along with stricter technical standards and further restrictions on distribution channels, are poised to further reduce investments and innovation in China. With the open vaping category mostly comprised of Chinese products manufactured in China and sold worldwide, tougher regulations for open vaping players in China are expected to negatively affect open vaping sales globally due to rising production costs and lower product variety associated with the imposition of regulated standards by public authorities.
Despite the final report of the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) acknowledges e-vapour products could allow some smokers to progressively quit smoking, which might encourage EU legislators to adopt a softer approach on e-vapour products following the example of the UK, the menthol ban on heated tobacco products adopted by the EU in November adds further momentum to flavour restrictions in tobacco, in particular for e-vapour products. A progressive ban on flavoured e-vapour products other than tobacco in the EU seems more likely today and threatens to scale back growth prospects for the category.
The adoption of new anti-vaping measures in the main e-vapour markets are commonly replicated by other key markets over time, adding more regulatory uncertainty and discouraging further investments in the category from most tobacco players. Increasing regulatory scrutiny should accelerate the investment efforts from tobacco companies in heated tobacco at the expense of the e-vapour category, which is set to become a niche market in most countries and regions in the near future due to restrictive legislation.
Imran Ismail, Founder and CEO, Doozy Vape Co.
Since disposables arrived in early 2021, despite the negative impact they have had, we have to acknowledge the benefits they have brought to the industry. As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs…
Since early 2021, cigarette sales have slumped as more people turn towards a more convenient way to get their nicotine fix - and compared to cigarettes, disposables are still a cheaper alternative. This helped convert many from smoking to vaping, so step one was complete.
Fast forward 18 months on, and we are now in a situation where those smokers who have made the change will not go back to cigarettes and are happy to continue on their vaping journey with their beloved disposables.
Some have been adventurous and have now transitioned to either freebase nicotine or nicotine salts but many are still vaping disposables. However, the drop in the pound against the dollar is making Chinese imports of disposables more expensive, and this will be exacerbated by a new tax on all vape products exported by China. This will make disposables more expensive and less not cost effective.
We have already noticed sales of salts e-liquid 10/20mg starting to rise sharply as more disposable Vapers turn to 10ml salts to get their fix. In my opinion, the future is nicotine salts and 2023 will see record salt sales.
Cédric Rijkers, Managing Director, Hexa Vapor
In 2023 expect to see a further increase of the total vaping market - with disposables driving most of that growth. Some of these disposable users will transition to either closed system devices like HEXA or to open systems.
At the same time, we do expect stricter regulations in several markets. The Netherlands, for example, is close to introducing a complete flavour ban, only allowing 16 molecules to be used as flavour components for tobacco flavors. Our flavourist described this as trying to make a pizza with just flour - or making a poem with only 3 letters. Flavours in vaping products are essential for keeping smokers away from tobacco products.
Users who are now used to fruit flavours will not be satisfied with going back to tobacco-flavoured vapes. So logically this will drive a huge part of existing demand into the black market or, worse, back to tobacco products. As a result, consumers in the Netherlands will take many steps backwards in terms of health. Tobacco products are significantly more harmful and on the black market there will be no control whatsoever on safety of the products and the age limit.
Another trend we see are additional taxes. Several countries are considering, planning or have already introduced excise taxes on vaping products (e.g. Germany, Latvia and Romania). As a company we are not opposed to the idea of excise taxes, but it’s essential that vaping products stay cheaper than the much more harmful tobacco products.
For producers these changes will require substantial investments in infrastructure to comply with these new regulations. This will not be possible for smaller players and so we do expect some consolidation in the market.
Finally, the ecological impact of the disposables are also driving certain policymakers to consider a total ban on these products (Belgium, Estonia). With HEXA we have set up a recycling program in Belgium to limit our ecological footprint.
This year’s predictions brought mixed hope and threat. That’s not unusual - almost since the start of the industry there have been those who have sought to destroy it even while smoking rates plummeted as vape devices became popular.
In contrast to then, we now have far more data and science to back up the assertion that vaping is far safer than smoking. And what many forget - including some of those who are positive on vaping - is that the data on safety is backwards looking.
Where there is good regulation, devices and e-liquid have got safer. Where policymakers work with industry, instead of banning legal devices in favour of the black market, we have the potential to make vaping safer again.
Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine a world in 50 years time where people choose to smoke old-fashioned combustible cigarettes that kill instead of ever-improving alternatives. The road may be rocky in places but, eventually, we will get to a destination where reduced-harm products are the norm.