The smoking alternatives market has been around a very long time, even before mainstays like the nicotine patch or nicotine gum arrived. The entire point of replacing one thing with another would be the possibility that the replacement is better. It does more for you. It helps in one way or another. If it didn’t, why wouldn’t you just stick with the original, right? While alternatives to certain products often centered on cost savings or new features, with smoking alternatives it has always been different. The stakes themselves have been much higher and the ability to make that switch has been much more difficult.
How do you take a product that you are essentially addicted to and replace it, and why? In the case of traditional tobacco cigarettes, we all know why. The public had a hunch at how bad smoking was, but there wasn’t a full on movement until after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. That report was released in 1964 and the subsequent anti-smoking movement gained steam throughout the 70s, finally kicking Big Tobacco advertisements off the air. Using a combination of scare tactics and hard facts, the 50+ years of anti-smoking efforts since that government advisory reportedly saved over 8 million lives.
Yet, regardless of how bad smoking was shown to be, lots of people wouldn’t or couldn’t stop. For those that wanted to but couldn’t, the creation of a smoking alternatives market was vital. A lot of Americans desperately wanted to stop their habit, but found their efforts wasted in vain when a momentary slip got them back on the smoking bandwagon. No, they needed something to help and that is precisely what the nicotine patch and nicotine gum were introduced to do. If they could just target the nicotine addiction, people would surely choose something that won’t kill them.
Patch and Gum Fail As Smoking Alternatives
Unfortunately, even with the rollout of nicotine gum in the 80s and the nicotine patch in the 90s, smoking habits didn’t change all that much. Those products certainly helped a lot of people, while bringing pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars, but it wasn’t enough. It didn’t really make that huge impact that was needed in the fight against tobacco. Something about these products wasn’t enough.
So even though they served as smoking alternatives, they mostly were tried and then tossed aside by smokers who were intent on making a change.
We all know what happened next: electronic cigarettes arrived on the scene.
Ecigarettes were a revelation for many smokers. They provided a level of nicotine that could satisfy them, like the patch or nicotine gum, but they did more than that. The experience of vaping replicated smoking in a lot of ways, and thus that psychological reliance on traditional tobacco cigarettes was matched. This was especially the case as ecigs progressed, the market grew, and much better products were released. These newer version would do a better job of providing that needed throat hit and creating enough vapor to mimic that sensation of smoking. For those of us around the revolution early on, we know that this was different and we knew it right away.
That’s why we aren’t surprised to hear of the growing electronic cigarette sales numbers, both in the US and worldwide. This yea the market for ecigarettes is set to pass the $6 billion per year mark, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. In the UK alone vaping products saw an uptick of 75 percent, reaching £459 million (which equates to $721 million).
At the same time, other smoking alternatives dropped by 3 percent, down to £137 ($215) million in sales. It marks the first time there has been a decline in the sales of nicotine gum and the nicotine patch since 2008. It also shows how ecigarettes have become the preeminent options among smoking alternatives in the UK, more than tripling the sales of their opponents.
Ecigs Far Outpace Other Smoking Alternatives
The change is simply astounding when you think about it. It’s not that the patch or the gum set the bar that high, but they are still owned by incredibly powerful pharmaceutical companies.
These guys obviously don’t like to lose any more than Big Tobacco does.
So they’ve continued battling electronic cigarettes even after they lost their former allies in tobacco who bought themselves into the ecig market.
Shane MacGuill, a senior tobacco analyst at Euromonitor, paints a very clear picture. “Up until now there has been no direct competition for cigarettes in a meaningful sense, and nicotine replacement therapies were certainly not providing that,” he says.
But that was before the ecigarette made its successful foray into the lives of millions of smokers. “The days of the traditional cigarette are numbered – the only question is how long that process will take – and e-cigarettes have the potential to drastically shorten the shelf life of traditional tobacco products,” MacGuill insists. If we simply look at the clear path of vaping as a popular alternative to smoking all around the world, we can’t help but agree with him. In fact, we’ll take it one step further and say that the shelf lives of the nicotine patch and nicotine gum have also been shortened, in one fell swoop.
We don’t think those alternatives will disappear quite yet, especially with the data on ecigarettes still coming in. There are enough smokers who were unfortunately scared away by the false negative press and they will take some time before they try vaping again, or for the first time. The same goes for traditional tobacco cigarettes really, who won’t go down completely for a while. They do still outnumber the sales of electronic cigarettes by more than 30 times in the UK. They still seem to rise in sales each year, even with less people smoking. But that mainly has to do with traditional tobacco cigarettes getting more expensive due to price raises and more, or higher, taxes. As Mr. MacGuill points out, “Volume growth is very limited globally.”
What that means is that electronic cigarettes have plenty more room to grow. There are still millions of smokers out there who can only dream of making the switch. They either have or haven’t tried one of the smoking alternatives on the market, but they haven’t found what they needed. This is the next frontier for ecigarettes, going mainstream while increasing quality. It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing, as the better product will help it go mainstream, while higher demand will push companies to develop a better product.
The insatiable appetite of the electronic cigarette market is ready for more. After devouring the nicotine delivery devices that were already on the market, they now seek more. The sky seems to be the limit, and that’s a great thing for vapers everywhere.