Propaganda or product: why has e-cigarette use dipped in England?

A great thing about England is that serious monitoring of e-cig use, smoking and smoking cessation does actually take place. […]

Adapted from Smoking Toolkit – Trends in electronic cigarette use in England (January 2015 update)

A great thing about England is that serious monitoring of e-cig use, smoking and smoking cessation does actually take place. As shown in the graph above, we’ve seen a dip in e-cigarette use in England among smokers and recent ex-smokers (i.e. people who quit in the last 12 months)…. see Smoking Toolkit Survey latest result and trends in e-cigarette use

Two theories have been advanced to explain this fall: I call these propaganda and product.

1. Propaganda: misleading and sensationalist reports of risks

Readers will be familiar with my views on the reckless conduct of various public health academics and commentators, and the reinforcing role played by credulous journalists see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here for examples – and if in doubt about a warped science narrative there is Dr Farsalinos’ excellent e-cigarette research blog. I don’t want to labour them in this posting, because I really want to discuss product in the second part.

Professor West, who leads on this survey work, referring to reports of carcinogens such as formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapour, highlights the propaganda theory in his comment in the Financial Times:

“misleading” and “sensationalist” reports were putting smokers off.  “What they don’t say is the concentrations are negligible or the same as nicotine replacement therapies. In some cases they arise from using the e-cigarettes in a way that no one would use it,”. 

By the way, Professor West’s short guide to misleading e-cigarette science is a useful tool for navigating the propaganda spewing from academia into the public square.  The point is we know that smokers’ perceptions of risk are very far from accurately aligned with reality, and that this affects smoking and vaping behaviour – see Farsalinos on this.

So it was particularly irritating, if predictable, to see WHO’s FCTC secretariat apparently celebrating this decline in e-cigarette use, especially as the decline appears to coincide with their appalling propaganda offensive starting August of 2014.

Like a toddler with jam all over his face denying all contact with cake

​WHO is the biggest of all of Big Tobacco’s Little Helpers and has probably led the world in inventing and amplifying these concerns while doing little to place the real risks in context – see my review of WHO’s highly misleading risk communications (PDF).

2. Product: e-cigarettes are not up to the job

The other likely reason, also discussed in the FT, is that e-cigarettes do not match the experience of smoking.  Again, Robert West…

But although smokers are still using them as an aid to quitting, said Mr West, their popularity among continuing smokers has fallen as they find the devices do not always satisfy their nicotine cravings.

This is likely to be true but also probably quite subtle…. especially as ‘e-cigarettes’ are not one thing.

ecig generations

There are certainly people who find vaping a satisfactory alternative to smoking, but that is clearly not the full story.  There are several possible explanations for why ‘product’ could be the issue (I’m not saying I know which) – each with a different remedy, and not mutually exclusive:

  1. Technology? Maybe the category as whole is not good enough as an alternative to smoking – just doesn’t work as a recreational drug delivery product, or has some other failings (a case for a regulatory framework that promotes continuing innovation – currently proceeding at a rapid rate prior to imposition of smothering EU and FDA bureaucratic burdens)
  2. Access? Perhaps the technologies that people chose when they switch are not the ones that are good enough to keep them from smoking.  The easy-to-buy products that are generally available in mass retail outlets are not the ones that work well, and good products may be crowded out by the mediocre.  There is very little neutral advice available to new e-cigarette users on what to buy and blanket official disapproval rather than helpful orientation.
  3. Cost of entry? Perhaps moving to the more effective products requires an upfront capital investment – i.e. buying big batteries, tanks, mods etc… yet as a new user you may not know if you will like the experience. So there is a danger you’ll have to spend big and then find the money wasted. For others, their budget might not allow a significant one off expenditure, however much they want it. So poverty and understandable risk aversion may confine some people to the less effective products.
  4. Learning curve? Maybe the learning curve from naive user to experienced user is too long to retain a smoker’s interest during a transition, especially for the products more likely to be a satisfactory alternative.  The most successful products are also more complicated, requiring technical knowledge and skill to use. Not a barrier for geek-orientated vapers, but maybe for (many) others.  Again, the thicket of advice is terribly dense, jargon-laden and ponderous on Facebook, commercial web sites, YouTube etc.
  5. Missing aspects of smoking? Perhaps there are other aspects of smoking that matter, not just nicotine delivery: image and brand affinity, taste, sensory, other psychoactive elements such as MAOIs.  This view forms some of the public health rationale for ‘heat not burn’ tobacco products – that they will appeal to more smokers because they more closely mimic the experience. That proposition will ultimately be tested in the marketplace. On the other hand, snus captures a large share of Swedish nicotine use and perhaps there is nothing inevitable about smoking habits.
  6. Adverse trade-offs?  Perhaps smokers are less willing to accept a diminished nicotine pharmacokinetic experience if they think the benefits are small. If they believe the health risks about the same, they can’t vape indoors, that the costs are going up, why compromise on the nicotine hit? As hostile public health commentary and policies degrade the benefit side of the e-cigarette value proposition, perhaps smokers become less willing to compromise to achieve diminished benefits and become more sensitive to any losses associated with switching to e-cigarettes?
  7. Repeat attempts? Perhaps users who had an unsatisfactory experience first time around with first generation products are not trying again with more modern products, at least not in sufficient numbers.  Smokers get a strong ‘buyer beware’ message about e-cigarettes from all the authorities telling them they are unlicensed and unregulated. For nicotine and other smoking cessation medications, they are more likely to get encouragement to “try, try and try again”.
  8. Limited interest? Perhaps only a small fraction of the smoking population is interested in switching to vaping, and the rest just aren’t bothered.  Perhaps a small but interested segment has tried and either taken it on or shrugged and the stock of potential converts has dried up.  This is quite unlikely I think – most people will ultimately act rationally in their own interests, taking account of the costs, benefits and uncertainties, as they perceive them, of any change of course.  The question is when does an e-cigarette provide enough benefits to offset any losses?  That will be something that shifts over time as alternative products improve.  “Never” some will inevitably say. But I suspect most would say: “never say never” and remain interested. One 2012 survey of British smokers found: Among current smokers who were aware of but had never used e-cigarettes, approximately half were interested in using them in the future.

Given all these interesting questions, and many more about reduced risk products, what a pity so much research effort and commentary goes into frightening people with misleading pseudo-science and so little, though not zero, goes into to deeper understanding of behaviours and preferences.

I’d be really interested in views of vapers and smokers on this: why is the rise of e-cigarettes stalling in England? Propaganda, product, both or neither?  Please comment!

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70 thoughts on “Propaganda or product: why has e-cigarette use dipped in England?”

  1. I’d personally like to think that it is purely the negative propaganda being published that is the sole reason for the decline.

    However, having seen most of it first hand would probably sway my bias in that direction. There are several people I know who want to make the switch, but have little or no access to the various educational resources I am able to enjoy.

    There is a cost associated with making the switch, some folk would not want to invest a lot of cash on a product that they are not sure of (like the 2nd or 3rd generation devices) if it doesn’t work for them, which brings up the knowledge of using those devices.

    It would probably be easier for folk to switch if they had support and advice from either their own friends, or a professional service along with a lower initial investment cost.

    Say 75% propaganda and %25 product?

  2. I’m an Aussie but I’ve followed the Euro issues and they may be one reason for the dip, it’s created uncertainty about whether vapes are going to be available in the way people believe that they should be. Couple that with an active media campaign to demonise ecigs, and that will do the trick.

    Moving on to your 8 points:
    1. I would say that access is an issue, particularly in OZ, where nicotine is banned (other than in a NRT or a cigarette).
    2. Learning curve – without access, it requires a lot of work to favour an ecig over cigarettes. I use 3rd gen ecigs, but inherent in those is the dark art of maintenance, which means work. I’m a dual user, eventually I won’t be :)
    3. MIssing aspects of smoking – well when the ecig and juice is working well, one would never miss smoking, because it is an admirable substitute. However, when vaping in public, some of the commentary is worse than what one would receive when smoking – which is tiresome.

    Just a few thoughts, thanks for all the great advocacy work that you do :)

  3. Another great article, Clive. I shall be linking back and referencing it wherever/whenever I can.


    AKA Blog Dog

  4. Another aspect that puts people off is the size. For some reason, smokers seem to be quite happy to carry round a packet of 20 and a lighter, but baulk at the thought of using an ecig the size of a fountain pen. Show them a box mod which has the power to reach the output levels equivalent to a cigarette (20 to 30W according to Evolv) and they often recoil in horror.

    This is one reason for the initial success of cigalikes, and the unfortunate reluctance to try again when they discover the limitations of that form factor. Obviously, this is a technological challenge, and sizes will reduce as science advances and improves on battery energy density, the major limiting factor in miniaturisation.

    I dont believe there is much substance to point 6 other than in the cigalike category, as smokers and vapers self-titrate to compensate for performance. Education is an issue here. New vapers need to be instructed that they can titrate using either higher strength liquid, or simply vape more often – a message that dedicated vape shops will give the new customer generally, but not one that is common with internet sales.

    1. Good point about size, I’ve heard this a lot, particularly from female smokers. They seem to think that anything larger than a tobacco cigarette will be viewed as not glamorous or ladylike, which is weird in my view.

      Personally I find that not having to carry around tobacco, papers and a lighter, (I was a rollie smoker), and just having a simple ego battery and clearo, (I use these when out and about), much more convenient and a whole lot less messy.

      When going out for longer lengths of time, I have a small case which contains a box mod, (MVP which has considerable battery life), an RBA, and a little container, (ucan made of stainless steel so does not leak).

      At home I use mainly mech mods and Vamo’s + RBAs.

      I often wonder if it more a need to be organised, having batteries charged, and refilling atomisers, that is more of an issue for smokers, as tobacco and cigarettes can be purchased just about everywhere, than the size of the equipment. Particularly in a country like Australia, where access to vaping supplies is severely restricted, when a vaper must be organised as there are few vape stores, (none in my state where the sale of vape hardware is illegal), and where all nicotine liquids must be purchased online from overseas.

      I’m surprised that there are any vapers at all here in Aus.

      1. Jude I think you are right about the ‘convenience’ aspect, I travel a bit and have to make sure before I leave home that I have all I need for a few days- unlike cigarettes – e-cigs are not in every 7/11 on the Hwy to Broken Hill.

        1. In my state, I can’t buy either hardware or liquids, and everything must be ordered online, any nicotine liquids have to be ordered from overseas with postage being very expensive, and waiting times up to a month. So its extremely inconvenient, and if the ANTZ in Australia have their way, it will become impossible, (bar embarking on a life of crime), to vape at all, and all because smokers want to quit smoking tobacco using a safer product of their own choice.

          I don’t know how anyone, knowing the facts about vaping, and the facts about the corruption and lies coming from “tobacco control” could believe that this is about anything other than money, in the form of pharma profit and tobacco taxes.

  5. I agree with others who’ve said it’s a combination. The ‘product’ issues you raise are real and present a barrier to people successfully switching. Many will persevere if they believe the cost /effort will be worth it, so devaluing the product category with propaganda about health risks means that many simply give up trying or don’t try in the first place.

    There are products coming through now (both atomisers and batteries) which are a vast improvement on the current entry level tank systems, and yet are, if anything, simpler to use. It is possible now to get a very similar experience to a standard coiled RBA from stock heads. At the moment the costs of these devices may still be prohibitive to many smokers, but they will get cheaper and innovation will continue in this mid range area if the right regulation is achieved.

  6. YoYoFerretMan

    I tried ecigs but they made my asthma quite a bit worse, not saying their a bad thing but eek i prefer smokeless tobacco products. No realy effect on my breathing. Its sad that some of the safest smokeless products are banned.

    Plus i got tired of having to keep charging batterys and replacing atomizers.


    1. This is a good point, the key is to have as many options as possible – and therefore to meet as many individual preferences as a possible. Even if there are just a few people who think snus is right for them, why stop them?

  7. 1. Mentoring is crucial when making any form of attempt to avoid cigarettes. There may be an exception for simple products in a general climate of approval – Snus in Sweden for example – but since a decent ecig setup is the most complex of any kind of cessation or THR system, expert assistance is important. Buying a supermarket mini ecig, no access to in-family help, and no awareness of community support is not a good route to success. Success rates double with mentoring – whatever method you’re talking about.

    2. WTA refills appear critical for many attempting the switch, especially in the first month. Most people have some sort of cravings, especially at first, so there are chemical dependency issues not being addressed by regular ecig/refill setups. You’ll need strong motivation to get past that stage, and it may not be there.

    3. The organised propaganda assault on vaping is bound to be an important factor. With sufficient skill and/or funding you can achieve almost anything with propaganda, after all. Most potential switchers are very close to the try it / don’t bother line, and if they do try, remain close to the succeed/fail line for a significant time. Propaganda can be just enough to push people back across one of the two successive hurdles they must get past and clear of.

    Keep in mind we face the best commercial propagandists the world has ever seen, who also have access to unlimited funds. The only restriction on their push to kill vaping is the fact they must try and stay below the radar as far as is possible, and there is a limit to volume in the black propaganda game (where the propaganda is generated and published by third parties), in order to keep the funding source from creating problems with credibility.

    We could probably put those three factors in any order as they all have a significant effect. The variable however is the propaganda assault, which is reaching a climax along with the observed effect on vaping; so it is not unreasonable to put it at #1 in the list.

  8. Clive, I think you may have gotten this one wrong.

    First, I think a better interpretation of that time series is not “recent decline” but rather “steady for about two years (modulo random error)”. The anomaly seems to be the penultimate point in the curve, not the latest one.

    Second, what is the rate of exit from the “recent smoker” population? I might be wrong about this one because I am not sure exactly what questions are being asked, but if “recent” is recent enough, then this still represents quite a few people entering that population (new e-cigarette users), replacing those who exit it.

    Third, your discussion seems to be based on the premise that e-cigarettes, in some shape or form, should be replacing far more (all?) smoking. So you ask why they have only replaced some smoking from the standpoint of this being unexpected. Of course, it would be great if every smoker liked ecigs enough to switch or use them as partial substitutes, but we know that is not true. We know that there is some natural maximum, and it might well be in the range of the almost-plateau that we are seeing.

    Granted, better products, less propaganda, etc. would presumably push this up. But the unstated assumption here is similar to tobacco control’s assumption that no one wants to smoke, and therefore the fact that smoking rates are not dropping any faster than they are is due to some process failure or (for those who are inclined to think that way) enemy action. Perhaps it is the case that the level of adoption right now is only half of what it “should” be, but we do not know that for sure.

    1. I may not have expressed it that well, but my 6th and 8th points are there to recognise the complex patterns of preferences that real people hold, in which they weigh different aspects or smoking or vaping differently. But what is in the following statement that conveys the sense that I think no-one wants to smoke?

      …most people will ultimately act rationally in their own interests, taking account of the costs, benefits and uncertainties, as they perceive them, of any change of course. The question is when does an e-cigarette provide enough benefits to offset any losses? “Never” some will inevitably say. But I suspect most would say: “never say never”.

      For the avoidance of ambiguity, I have italicised as they perceive them.

      In fact even amongst those who say they want to quit, I think many are expressing a preference in much the same way I say I would like to lose 10kg bodyweight, read Proust and run a marathon. All of these things require effort or sacrifices that mean I am unlikely to make the necessary trade offs to realise.

      1. I did not mean to imply that you were making the classic “demonic possession” error of tobacco control. Rather I was just suggesting it is a similar hidden premise: that it must be that it is natural for more people to being doing this, and therefore the explanation for why they are not doing it is in the details and not the fundaments. I think your point 6 still falls into this category.

        Your point 8 is, indeed, basically a similar thought to mine and it does state your premise about it that I suggested was unstated (though it was sort of buried, coming after the rest of the content relied on it). But why so sure? Many smokers who have known the truth about the low risk of smokeless tobacco (that is, set aside those who were victims of the propaganda about it) failed to switch to it. Few smokers have switched to NRT as THR. They either just don’t want them or are waiting for something better to come along. (Or they are victims of believing they will just quit completely soon — see the points about this my paper about second-order preferences and such.) You can say that e-cigarettes are better than those, but that just predicts a quantitative difference.

        And, of course, you can argue that the characteristics of any of those products are such that it is not good enough. But down that path lies something nearing uninformative tautology: {If the perfect substitute low-risk product is created then everyone would switch to it. Such a thing does exist in concept (think: packs of cigarettes that contain, at no additional cost, a pill that eliminates 99% of the health effects). Therefore, the products that do exist could be improved to be perfect. Therefore any ceiling on adoption is always about the products not being perfect or people being misinformed about them.} That certainly makes it worth contemplating improvements. But it does not mean that currently practical incremental improvements would actually matter.

        1. People rarely have irrevocable unshakeable preferences, what people choose to do always depends on the landscape of alternatives and where these fit within a complex pattern of preferences or aversions for pleasure, ritual, health, wellbeing, social approval/stigma, withdrawal, craving, loss, opportunity cost, and so on (each being complicated landscape in its own right) mitigated by beliefs drawn from different sources and subject to psychological biases eg in stated versus revealed preferences, or in holding self-exempting beliefs or through strategies to relieve dissonant cognitions. A decision to try something different involves reconciling competing preferences, initiating action and incurring transaction and transitional costs. In other words, it’s a question for behavioural economics.

          The range of available technologies, and what is known and believed about them, changes all the time and so one might expect a technology undergoing rapid improvement through innovation to continue growing into the incumbent customer base rather than slam into a ceiling of some sort – unless of course other influences degrade the value proposition (deceit from public health, red tape from regulators, vaping bans etc) . I must confess I don’t like the phrase ‘tobacco harm reduction’ because it locks these products into a therapeutic definition with reference to smoking. I’d prefer to see this as a technological diffusion of innovation – much like the evolution of cooking from open fires, to ranges, to gas rings and microwaves or evolution in sanitation, telecomms, energy, transport or food. New technologies attack an incumbent market over many decades, gradually encroaching into incumbent territory as the technology and value proposition gradually appeals to more and more of the incumbents’ customers – or they are replaced by generational changes.

          That doesn’t mean every smoker will switch, will want to switch or will bother at all – but unless this technology has peaked, and everyone who could be satisfied by is using it, then it does mean that the potential is greater than we see at present.

  9. There may be a third mechanism (whisper it) – ecigs aren’t for everyone. They’ve been around long enough now, and have enough market penetration that most smokers must have heard of them, or even know someone who uses/used them. I’m a hobbyist vaper, with no desire to stop vaping but it may be that I’m in the minority and for the majority they are a quitting aid pure and simple. If that’s true, and they have achieved sufficient market penetration then then number of vapers will naturally wither. Just a thought, no evidence to back that up obviously!

    1. I don’t think that all smokers really understand about e-cigs yet. Not in Northern Ireland, at any rate.

      We have a high percentage of smokers here, I believe, and many see themselves as “hard men” who wouldn’t want to do anything to soften that image of themselves.

      The supermarkets only stock the cig-a-likes and disposable clearomisers. Most sellers of 2nd gen devices are little booths in shopping malls, which don’t inspire a lot of confidence. My nearest e-cig shop (2 miles away) does fairly good business, but is hardly packed – and I don’t like their e-liquids at all (far too strong).

      I have asked a few strangers that I’ve bumped into, when they were out for a smoke, whether they have tried an e-cig yet. Not one has replied in the affirmative. One guy said “I’m not interested in quitting”, while a couple of other people said “The studies show that they’re no better than smoking” (which led to interesting discussions); but most said that they knew very little about them and then asked me about my experience with them, whether they worked out cheaper than smoking, etc. The potential financial saving seemed to really interest them, especially the pensioners, but they were put off by the initial outlay and were also a bit worried about whether they would be laughed at by their mates.

      I think it will take time for some people to come round to the idea of trying an e-cig – and they may never do that if the media keep running scare stories about them and if over-zealous regulation increases the potential savings or removes other advantages.

  10. I might be a good example. I am nearly at two years, got rid os stinkies in a week and DIY and use 3rd gen stuff. I started vaping because of the cost of cigarettes. I now run at 45p a day for juice plus coils (I have just ordered an RBA etc so the coils will become cheaper). I love vaping but could not afford to go back to cigarettes. There have been and there still are times when vaping becomes too much of a faf and it would be so easy to just buy a pack. For me the downsides are product. I have gone through a pile of tanks and coils to find something that just Vapes right every time…… I have not found it yet. It’s the price that keeps me vaping.

  11. Bill Godshall

    Although nobody will ever know, I suspect about 90% of the decline in vaping can be attributed to fear mongering propaganda and vaping bans, and about 10% of the decline is due to vapers quitting vaping (as I know several dozen smokers who quit smoking by switching to vaping, then quit vaping nicotine, and eventually quit vaping).

  12. I believe it´s a matter of price, the simple relation between cost of cigarettes vs cost of vaping.
    Users want the same experience, so they seek a device that produces as much vapor as a cigarette produces smoke.
    They compare how much liquid it takes to vape at that power for 20x 5 minutes per box of cigarettes.
    Unfortunately that requires a big device and about 10ml of liquid which at the price of ready made stuff exceeds the price of cigarettes.

    Beginners aren´t willing to go for the DIY, so they try it, find it too expensive, at same time not satisfactory and they give up.
    A few will stick to vaping with an efford in reduced experience, same as if they reduced smoking, some succeed there, some learn the DIY from there and move on to bigger devices, but the vast majority returns to smoking.

    We´ve seen a huge boom the first few years due to the fact everybody gave it a try, but now we see levels evening out to the normal success rate, but to my mind that´s exclusively due to the extreme high price of ready made liquids.
    I mean …. fill in some swearing …… , DIY liquids cost me as an end customer $0,30 cents per 10ml, why on earth do ready made liquids have to cost $5 or more?

    The fact BigT now sells disposable ecigs at a price that equals about $150 per 10ml of liquid, while the devices deliver less than 1/4 the power of a standard starter kit like the EVOD, makes it even worse, because users who try these will never even consider vaping as a satisfactory alternative to smoking, they find the difference so huge, they can´t imagine how much better a bigger ecig could be, so they give up before discovering the possibility.

  13. The flavors are just BAD. Try a premium e-cig — a mark ten, a vuse, a blu and they are just top-flavor sticks.

    Heat not burn is promising through taste-wise the new PMI heatbar is no great shakes either.

    Future lies, I *think* with tobacco LIQUIDS.

    1. The answer here is not to second guess the market, but to rely on creative destruction applied to both firms and products… ideally the market should decide what the right products are with regulators providing a floor of meaningful safeguards that protect against material harms, and the means for consumers to make informed choices. These are things they don’t do now and appear to have no intention of doing in the future.

      1. I was making a prediction — it is tautologically correct that the market will decide, with provided that innovation is allowed to continue.

  14. It is a mixture.

    A) First, the product offers some initial problems:

    The initial outlay is sometimes high (10 to 100 euros, depending on model).
    Sometimes they not produce enough steam: depends on the model and condition of use of its components.
    Sometimes you run out of battery, although some models use microUSB charger, many use a specific charger harder to find thread.
    Sometimes some liquid overflows and “wets” the device.
    Sometimes when vacuuming can get some liquid in the mouth, and is like eating a bad pipe: a few seconds of bad taste.
    Some people glycerin or propylene glycol’re allergic or uncomfortable effects (dry mouth, hiccups, irritative cough vapean the first times …).
    You may enter into a spiral of shopping, looking more and more models, thus increasing a habit that, in principle, would assume less than one euro a day.
    With the current misinformation, some people look at you with a scowl, thinking that “this pileup” is contaminating them somehow.
    If you run out of product, it is not easy for someone around you will “invite to an electronic cigarette” or that you find at dawn machine corner bar.

    However, the end result is clearly advantageous (does not cause cancer or lung disease or cardiovascular disease). So, why many smokers do not “make the leap”?

    Let me give an example of organic chemistry: The activation energy is often used to denote the minimum energy required for a given chemical reaction. This activation energy in this case would be the motivation produced by the knowledge that we gain from the change.

    B)The press and the pharmacist-physician antivap lobby with powerful economic reasons and resources have been responsible for removing that motivation, supported by four factors:

    1. When thinking about a new product, the importance of the views of “expert” is high, because the consumer has no experience to compare with.
    2 Saying nonsense is easy and fast, but rebut needs time, space and a minimum of knowledge. Therefore, be fool is thermodynamically favored because it saves energy.
    3 The bad news about something they have more psychological burden that good. “Slander, that something is”.
    4 When vapping,we introduce something in the “privacy” of our lungs. The ancient saw “breath” the ultimate expression of the soul. Unconsciously, we feel some rejection to inhale “unknown products”.

    But we can change the story…

  15. Excuse my ignorance, but I see from the chart that there have been downward ‘blips’ before. There was a big ‘blip’ in the 1st/2nd quarter of 2013, and a smaller ‘blip’ in the 3rd quarter of 2013. The latest ‘blip’ is no more severe that the first one. Having said that, the chart shows a levelling.
    I wonder if we are seeing this the wrong way round?
    The advent of ecigs was much trumpeted some four years ago. The emphasis was upon ‘equivalence’: “Using an ecig is just as nice as smoking”. Provided that that message was continuous, then it would have an effect, not only upon purchases and use of ecigs, but upon perceptions. But those perceptions are ‘delicate’ things.
    Disruption of the perceptions will inevitably disrupt the take-up of ecigs.
    I think that merely saying that ecigs must not be used where smoking is banned disrupts the delicate balance. For example, about a year ago, the Wigan Council banned the use of ecigs in/on its premises and in its vehicles. That ban must have affected the perception “Using an ecig is just as nice as smoking”.
    I know that the logic is faulty, but, like it or not, the delicate balance of perception was weighted in favour of tobacco cigarettes by that ban.
    I would say that the products are not involved significantly. For the most part, it is the intention of the user which is important.
    The EU Tobacco Directive article 20 is so messed up that it is the equivalent of straight bananas. As a consequence, it cannot but disrupt the delicate balance of perception.

    1. Agree about the temporary nature of the dip and the fact that it has happened before. I probably should have referred to the longer period of stagnation. I’m still optimistic it will rise again – because the products will improve (hopefully in many different ways) and the media will stop being so credulous about these campaigning academics.

      I totally agree with you about the perception signals that come with regulation, both on the ‘no smoke without fire’ basis by which regulation affirms a risk, but also by the politics of regulation that causes pompous but ignorant political windbags to take to the stage to justify what they are doing.

        1. This survey is not measuring sales, but use among a represenative group of smokers. They don’t ask about where they buy their ecigs.

        2. Hmmm any idea as to how they get their representative group of smokers and is that group really, by now ‘representative ‘of vapors?

        3. Clive
          Recently I received a phone survey call about smoking , I told them , truthfully , I do not smoke and had not had a cigarette for more than 2 years ….and that was the end of their questions.

        4. Thanks will have a look.
          However surely sales figures would be a more objective measure?

  16. I’m a vaper from Australia, and believe that that the decline in vaping mostly down to propaganda and issues with access, rather than the product itself, (although some people find the technology difficult, many see it as no more difficult than using a mobile phone or computer).

    In my state, Western Australia, vaping products, (liquid and hardware), cannot be purchased, so there are no B & M vape stores, and anyone who wants to vape needs to have access to the internet, know what to buy, and be prepared to wait considerable lengths of time for the products to be posted to them. If they do not know other vapers who can help them understand the technology, they must work it out for themselves, or learn from internet sources. Not many smokers are willing or able to do this, particularly when tobacco is readily available in supermarkets and any number of other outlets. Vaping gets put into the “too hard” basket.

    Then we have the issue of not being able to purchase any nicotine liquids in this country, all nicotine liquids must be imported from overseas, so the vaper cannot try flavours before they buy, they cannot try different nicotine levels to find one that suits them, unless they DIY their own liquids. It is expensive to have to order everything online and then the inevitable wait, (up to a month in some cases), for the liquids to arrive. Vapers also must rely on liquid reviews from other users, as they have no way of judging product quality before they purchase. This is a huge disincentive for smokers to make the switch.

    For example : My elderly neighbour, a lady in her 70s, and a long time smoker, (more than 50 years), saw me vaping and wanted to try it so that she could quit smoking tobacco. She had no internet access, and no idea on how to go about getting a suitable product, and liquids. She is a pensioner, so did not have the money to pay for the upfront purchases, (although she now has a lot more disposable income). Without a lot of advice and help, she would not have tried vaping at all, in fact if she hadn’t seen me vaping she would not even know vaping existed.

    She is now a non-smoker, and vapes on a 3rd generation vape system, and I make her liquids for her, (I DIY my own). I order everything for her online as she has no internet access. While I am more than happy to do this, I wonder how many smokers in her situation never get the chance to consider vaping as an alternative to smoking?

    My neighbour has experienced huge benefits to her health from making the switch, as well as having more disposable income, because Australia has some of the most expensive tobacco products in the world, most of which is government taxes.

    Just want to say thank you Clive, this is a conversation that needs to be had, and its great to be able to have the opportunity to discuss these issues.

  17. Excellent analysis.

    I think the major problem is the propaganda campaigns.

    In Spain they even managed to scare a vast majority back to smoking. What a great success. In Spain–whyever–there are hardly any active vaper communities like in many other countries. So people just swallowed what they were fed via the mass media. Active communities seem a very important antitoxin against the viral bovine excrement that keeps hitting the media fans.

    But only people who bother to actively search for real information have any chance to avoid being poisoned by this deluge of mental diarrhea. And even the forums are brimming with affected vapers. Confused and concerned by all that scaremongering. Asking What if there is something to it?

    The vast majority–smokers and non-smokers–don’t bother and accept the “information” spread by presumed “experts”.

    I’m a geek and one instance of this absurd FUD campaign got me curious enough to start digging for real information. I didn’t even consider quitting. That was three years ago. (More: My story)

    But i’m an exception. Public awareness of “ecigs” is rising, albeit mostly for the presumed alleged “dangers”: “I heard / read / saw / know,these thing are even worse than smoking! How can you do that to yourself? Keep those chemicals away from me!”

    I think, most of the product problems is caused by a severe lack of valid information combined with erroneous assumptions instilled by misleading suggestions. Reinforced by “scientists” testing just one sort of disposable or cartridge cig-a-likes and then presenting their results presuming to pertain to “The E-Cigarettes”. (In my blog: Don’t Dismiss Differences, rct: Crippling Control)

    Or look a the constant harping on whether ecigs are a cessation aid or not. The talk about “increasing the efficacy as NRT by regulation”. This all fosters the false impression that they are just like any NRT, maybe a bit better. So, even people who haven’t succumbed to the propaganda shit storm are asking: “Does it help?” My answer to this question usually is: “No. I wasn’t looking for help. I was looking for a better alternative. And found it.” (Vaping vs NRT)

    So, the “cure” to all problems with ecigs would be wide spread common knowledge of the real facts. But I have no idea how to achieve that.

  18. Robert Jenkins

    The following 3 points below play a large part

    1. Whenever something happens regarding an e cig the press jump all over it and only report the negative parts.

    2. Inaccurate reporting of test results or there agenda is to find fault and not the truth

    3. Total lack of easy to understand information regarding e cigs

    The above list could be endless without a doubt..

  19. Personally I see it as a propaganda issue. I have been vaping for two years after smoking more than two packs a day for over thirty years. I have never felt better. I go to sleep at night without lying down and wheezing and it no longer hurts to take a deep breath when I awake. However, some of the scaremongering have even made me wonder if it would not be safer to return to smoking. This is insanity! It is total insanity to put people off chosing a much safer alternative or make them question the choice they have made!

    Regarding technology, this is improving all the time and in a free market will continue to improve. There is such a diversity of products that everyone should be able to find something that suits them. However, the prices need to remain low so that people can experiment with different devices and the incentives high so they keep the motivation to experiment until they find what they like.

  20. Another barrier to use is “appearance”. I know quite a few smokers that are reluctant to switch because they think vaping looks silly. I also know of some older smokers that worry people will think they are using drugs.

    I also think that lack of knowledge in regard to maintenance leads to smokers giving up on vaping quite quickly. The vaping experience gets worse rather than better if you don’t change those bloody coils or your connections get clogged.

  21. Are we over-analyzing this?

    There was a similar dip in Q2 2013 which appears to be an anomaly. Perhaps the next quarter or two will show this to be the same?

    1. That is true, but actually this comes after a period of stagnation. so if you drew a trend line through the data for 2011 to 2013 and from 2014 onwards you’d se very different gradients… so I think something is going on.

      And this is just reason to discuss barriers to growth – some of which are to do with the evolving product, I think.

  22. harleyrider1978

    Vaping is a FAD not much more to say about it,except it was pateneted and approved as a disinfectant for hospitals in 1959 by FDA and even EPA……..

    EPA & FDA: Vapor Harmless to Children

    April 3, 2014 matt black

    In the continued war on e-cigarettes, we hear about the “potential dangers” of e-cigarette vapor and the “unknown public health risks.”

    First, I find it absolutely absurd that we’re attempting to pass laws based on unknowns, but what makes it even more absurd is the fact that there’s very little that isn’t known about e-cigarette vapor at this point. The primary ingredient of concern to those who wish to see e-cigarettes banned is the propylene glycol vapor, which has been studied for over 70 years.

    I recently came across a document titled, “Reregistration Eligibility Decision For Propylene Glycol and Dipropylene Glycol“, which was created by the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Catchy title. I was intrigued.

    This quote caught my eye:

    Propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol were first registered in 1950 and 1959, respectively, by the FDA for use in hospitals as air disinfectants. (page 4, paragraph 1).

    In a previous post, I had shared the summary of research that had been done in 1942 by Dr. Robertson regarding the antibacterial properties of vaporized propylene glycol, but I had never heard that the FDA wound up approving it for the purpose of an air disinfectant in hospitals.

    Indoor Non-Food: Propylene glycol is used on the following use sites: air treatment (eating establishments, hospital, commercial, institutional, household, bathroom, transportational facilities); medical premises and equipment, commercial, institutional and industrial premises and equipment; (page 6, paragraph 2)


    Method and Rates of Application


    Air Sanitizer

    Read the directions included with the automatic dispenser for proper installation of unit and refill. Remove cap from aerosol can and place in a sequential aerosol dispenser which automatically releases a metered amount every 15 minutes. One unit should treat 6000 ft of closed air space… For regular, non-metered applications, spray room until a light fog forms. To sanitize the air, spray 6 to 8 seconds in an average size room (10’x10′). (page 6, paragraph 6)

    A common argument used to support the public usage ban is that, “Minnesotans have become accustomed to the standard of clean indoor air.” However, according to the EPA and FDA, so long as there’s a “light fog” of propylene glycol vapor in the air, the air is actually more clean than the standard that Minnesotans have become accustomed to.

    General Toxicity Observations

    Upon reviewing the available toxicity information, the Agency has concluded that there are no endpoints of concern for oral, dermal, or inhalation exposure to propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol. This conclusion is based on the results of toxicity testing of propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol in which dose levels near or above testing limits (as established in the OPPTS 870 series harmonized test guidelines) were employed in experimental animal studies and no significant toxicity observed.

    Carcinogenicity Classification

    A review of the available data has shown propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol to be negative for carcinogenicity in studies conducted up to the testing limit doses established by the Agency; therefore, no further carcinogenic analysis is required. (page 10, paragraphs 1 & 2)

    Ready for the bombshell? I probably should have put this at the top, as it could have made this post a lot shorter, but I figured the information above was important, too…

    2. FQPA Safety Factor

    The FQPA Safety Factor (as required by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996) is intended to provide an additional 10-fold safety factor (10X), to protect for special sensitivity in infants and children to specific pesticide residues in food, drinking water, or residential exposures, or to compensate for an incomplete database. The FQPA Safety Factor has been removed (i.e., reduced to 1X) for propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol because there is no pre- or post-natal evidence for increased susceptibility following exposure. Further, the Agency has concluded that there are no endpoints of concern for oral, dermal, or inhalation exposure to propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol based on the low toxicity observed in studies conducted near or above testing limit doses as established in the OPPTS 870 series harmonized test guidelines. Therefore, quantitative risk assessment was not conducted for propylene glycol and dipropylene glycol.

    In a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health by Dr. Robertson in April of 1946, Robertson cites a study published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, which was conducted in 1944:

    The report of the 3 years’ study of the clinical application of the disinfection of air by glycol vapors in a children’s convalescent home showed a marked reduction in the number of acute respiratory infections occurring in the wards treated with both propylene and triethylene glycols. Whereas in the control wards, 132 infections occured during the course of three winters, there were only 13 such instances in the glycol wards during the same period. The fact that children were, for the most part, chronically confined to bed presented an unusually favorable condition for the prophylactic action of the glycol vapor.

    An investigation of the effect of triethylene glycol vapor on the respiratory disease incidence in military barracks brought out the fact that, while for the first 3 weeks after new personnel entered the glycolized area the disease rate remained the same as in the control barracks, the second 3 week period showed a 65 percent reduction in acute respiratory infections in the glycol treated barracks. Similar effects were observed in respect to airborne hemolytic streptococci and throat carriers of this microorganism.

    I don’t expect the prohibitionist lawmakers to delve this deeply into this subject on their own, but I certainly hope that when presented with this data that they reevaluate their stance on the subject and consider what science has to say. If they don’t, they’re simply basing their judgement off of rhetoric, misinformation, and personal bias and we all know where that gets us.

  23. We don’t know whether the decline/dip is due to smokers not trying them or dual-fuellers dropping the ecigs.The former may suggest we’ve reached a temporary saturation point – the latter may suggest that the health warnings have had an effect.(The health warnings will also impact new triers,of course)

    It would be an interesting experiment if,for a year,we tried a campaign called Switchtober(in the autumn,say) and perhaps a series of educational,informational and instructional TV ads around Christmas/New Year.We could even have a ‘Start Vaping’ day in the spring.

    It may be that,by the end of the year,prevalence could be around 15%.There would be winners and losers,of course – the main losers being the advocates and beneficiaries of the status quo and the main winners being businesses.A nightmare scenario!

  24. Verey Bowring

    I think a large part of stalling uptake of e cigs is down to the waves of negative stories that hit the media and are pushed by certain sections of public health, normally the usual suspects. Also bundled with this is the same section of public health dismissing any of the positive research/stories that do apper.
    Of course that isn’t the whole story and indeed you’ve covered everything else too.
    Some switching won’t find a device and liquid set up that satisfies their needs either because it doesn’t exist or that they lose patience before finding it.
    Some will find the whole world of e cigs too intimidating to ever fully engage.
    A few will have an adverse reaction to PG or VG and drop back without finding out what is actually happening.
    I am sure some try e cigs to please relatives/friends but aren’t really interested and still prefer smoking.
    Alas some will engage with the e cig world but be given bad advice somewhere in the community which spoils their experience and cause them to go back.

    The world of vaping is getting huge so new users need to get appropriate guidance about all the options available which is really hard if they don’t find a support group of some sort. We know only a small percentage of those vaping even interact with the bigger vaping community and when you lack that extra support I would think it will be so much harder to fight through to find your ideal vaping conditions.

    1. Although I’m not a user of either cigs or e-cigs, I did try to help a friend to have a go at switching, and I must say it was very difficult to work out the best thing to do. Again it’s where good practical and neutral advice for newcomers is really needed. For a newcomer, too much of the easily accessible commentary is for aficionados, not enough practical advice about getting started, and getting into it without committing a lot upfront… That is quite different to the discussion among the vaping cognoscenti about which device, liquid, battery combination produces the most interesting local weather system!

  25. AnalogueBetter

    Just a quick point from me:

    I WAS almost exclusively using e-cigs for a while, the main benefit for me was that they were exempt from indoor bans etc. As they started to get more attention from anti-smokers and more press coverage (scare stories) they started getting included in indoor bans by various establishments and authorities. So I gave up on them. I’m guessing this has happened to quite a few who have tried e-cigs.

    I found them a great cigarette substitute (if a little inconsistent), but just to note that if you are a cigar or pipe smoker you will likely find them utterly pointless. Smokeless tobacco would be a better option for cigar/pipe smokers wanting to quit.

    1. That is so infuriating… I wonder what they think they’ve achieved with those bans…? But this is an example where the propaganda drives regulation that damages the value proposition in ways other than through direct user perception of risk.

      1. AnalogueBetter

        Yes, I was never all that concerned about quitting/doing it for fear of my health. Just mainly wanted to escape the restraints on when/where I indulged in my habit. If it happened to be less damaging to my health that was just an added bonus. Seem to have found another way with Snus etc

        1. Well I’m glad snus is helping – whether for reasons of health or welfare. Of course the same people have made that as difficult as possible in most of Europe.

  26. jack listerio

    Edward Bernays’ “Propaganda” Theory Has Been Perfected

    Submitted by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

    When six mega-corporations who depend upon other mega-corporations, Wall Street banks and political parties for their revenue, control all of the news and information flowing to the masses, you have all the ingredients needed to control, influence and mold the opinions, tastes and ideas of the people. We are being manipulated by men who constitute the real government, hiding in the shadows and pulling the strings. Nothing reported by these six mega-corporation media mouthpieces for the oligarchs can be trusted. Their job is to coverup, subvert, and obscure the truth. And best of all, they have succeeded in convincing the people we are free and informed. Edward Bernays would be so proud.

    h/t flash

    “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

    Edward Bernays – Propaganda – 1928

  27. John Helliwell

    I wonder if the statistics are missing some people off. All my mods are from overseas, ordered directly off the Internet, the same with atomisers and eliquids. I use a 3rd generation device because the older technology found in UK shops is poor. Most shops sell poor eliquids which aren’t all that nice to vape. At the moment I’m using a Greek mod, a Greek atomiser and eliquid from Israel, or eliquids I create myself. I use new temperature controlled technology which doesn’t allow my eliquids to be vaporised at dangerously high temperatures which reduces the possibility of release of formaldehyde, or of the release of any byproduct of the accidental burning of dry wicking material. It’s a different level of vaping and I would be surprised if the official stats would include my kind of vaping. In my opinion, vaping is still on the rise, but fewer people are buying low end devices

    1. Hi John – the survey used here is a sample of users and asking them what they are doing, rather than tracking sales. So it should capture anyone who knows they vape. The sample is pretty big, so it should be reasonably representative, but like all samples, should have some error bars to reflect confidence that the sampled results reflect the real data.

  28. After my last post I think the situation could be improved by an entrepreneurial company. They could provide 3gen steups and juice with full instructions for the new starter so they would not have to go through the learning curve. The devices would have to be 99% reliable! batteries are easy but tanks not quite so. Just me thinking.

  29. I agree with most in that it is a mix of things contributing to the problem.
    First is the sensational headlines published on all the scandalous so called science. It sells papers. Rebuttals are normally online or at best on page 12 / 13. Additionally a rebuttal is going to be dry and scientific therefore less likely to be interesting to the general population.
    Second is the saturation of cigalikes which have been tried by almost every smoker and found lacking as a true alternative albeit useful at a pinch.
    Finally there is the fact that the majority of Vapers are from the IT savvy population. It’s much harder to reach the rest of the people without mainstream advertising.

  30. COLIN T JONES (@Ceetee_jones)

    It’s very interesting to see studies but arn’t studies just a snapshot of history and a prediction of what might be happening rather than what is actually really happening, I can see that the concerted bad negative propaganda and bad press of late seems to have had an effect, also the lumping ecigs with smoking to apply the local bans making people go out with smokers to vape, a lot of people say why bother and go back to smoking.
    I have been vaping nearly two years now and have been completely cigarette free since day one, but because of the constant banning more and more I have even thought that myself, but I am determined not to go back cigarettes at any cost, but it is hard work, some people take to it like a duck to water(me) but a lot want the easy option and won’t, so end up smoking again, and some are dual users which seems to be frowned upon, but isn’t a reduction of any kind of smoking a benefit in the long term.
    I am a DIY mixer using gen 3, got quite a collection built up now and it has become a hobby, got me interested in electronics, but a lot of people don’t/won’t put in the effort, there is not much help from a lot of shops or online to inform new users how to transition to vaping, but isn’t that more to do with the restictions on advertising that we as vapers are allowed to say publicly, where can we publish this helpfull advice without being shut down because the authorities deem it to be advertising and quash it.
    I took my brother to a local vendor and I have to say wasn’t very helpfull, I advised what to get as a good starter kit, couple of ego’s a bottom coil tank, and juice, in the hope i would show him how to rebuild coils etc, but he didn’t want the faff, and after a week or two coils wern’t delivering, and he went back to smoking and still is.

  31. I am what is popularly referred to as a ‘dual user’, although my preference is for the real thing. I use a 2nd generation device, and I have to say that for the most part, I think it’s very good. If they could fix the leakage problems, I’d be even more impressed. E-liquid is sticky and nasty, and I really don’t like the fact that (particularly when it is on its side)it tends to seep gunk all over whatever it’s next to.

    But to the question as to why e-cig sales seem to be dropping off, of course all the bullshit propaganda borrowed from anti-tobacco will be having an effect. However, what I (and probably many others) find off-putting is:

    1)When one looks for info about e-cigs on the internet, the dialogue is dominated by aficionados using 3rd generation devices discussing the various merits of frankly unintelligible components that mean absolutely nothing to the tyro looking for information. And there seems to be a desire amongst the (3rd gen) vaping clique for preserving the mystique. All the talk of making your own e-liquids and so on is really thoroughly off-putting for someone who is just looking for a simple, easily accessed and reasonably priced way to be able to smoke without attracting the opprobrium of the judgmental ones.

    2) The superiority complex displayed by many vapers (I noted one above referring to cigarettes as ‘stinkies’), assuming that by switching to e-cigs they are somehow better than smokers, is a real turn-off for many smokers. What the hell gives these guys the right to think that they are somehow superior, just because they switched delivery device? And to add insult to injury, many of them then adopt the rhetoric of the anti-smoking fanatics, in the fallacious belief that by doing so they will be spared the stigmatisation propaganda directed at smokers! Blind fools that they are. Tobacco Control hates vapers at least as much as they hate smokers, perhaps even more so, because they see vapers as evading the punishment for not conforming, so carefully crafted over the years. That will not be allowed. It’s not about health, it’s about destroying the whole social culture of smoking. And on that level, vaping is smoking.

    For me personally, since I’ve learned just how much rubbish we are fed on a daily basis about smoking, vaping isn’t about ‘harm reduction’ at all. I don’t honestly think there’s a lot to choose between smoking and vaping on that level. It’s merely a means of avoiding the spiteful imposition of the likes / dislikes of a minority of fanatics that has introduced me to vaping. It has the advantage of being (almost) odourless, and means I can very often vape where thanks to the mindless zealots I am by law constrained from indulging my pleasures of tobacco.

    Which brings me to another reason smokers are becoming less inclined to vape. What’s the point if vaping is banned everywhere that smoking is? The main, nay, only reason to vape as far as I’m concerned is that you can sit and enjoy a smoke with your pint, just like the good old days pre-2007 when people used to go to pubs. Why else go to all that trouble with batteries, e-liquid etc?

    Vapers with half a brain will have realised by now, having seen the lies and exaggerations put out on a regular basis by TC about e-cigs, that lies and exaggeration are their modus operandi, and if they happily lie about vaping, ergo they have probably, almost certainly been doing exactly the same about smoking.

    So why switch? There’s little advantage, apart from cost, and that’s unlikely to remain the case anyway once the lawmakers and tax collectors get to work.

  32. I have the feeling that it’s a combination of all the horror stories and the inaccessibility of good information. Yes, there’s a mine of information out there if you want to take the time and trouble to go after it. But for most smokers I think that this is a bridge too far, so they try the cigalikes and find them disappointing and go back to cigarettes. Much easier. For many who don’t immerse themselves in the subject long enough to find out what’s what, it’s just too much faffing around. They read about changing coils, dry burns, choices of liquids, nicotine strengths, various atomizers, cartomizers, tanks etc, etc, etc ……

    So first of all, smokers have to see through all the negative propaganda which is displayed very prominently in the popular press (as opposed to positive news which is usually relegated to the bottom right-hand corner on page 13 … ) Then they have to find the right equipment etc. A seemingly insurmountable task; unless they have a buddy at hand or are just born curious (as I was) there are too
    many choices and not enough clear-cut guidance; and while there are good B&M shops out there who are willing to advise and support new vapers, many just sell a standard package with vague advice – just read questions from beginners on vape fora.

    Time for some sort of easily accessible educational platform, though how anyone could achieve this within the current climate, heaven only knows!

  33. I know of three vapers who have recently returned to tobacco smoking. Two were dual users who have ditched the e-cigarettes due to restrictions on use and health fears. “It’s just not worth the hassle”
    The third was someone I had mentored and had been tobacco abstinent for three over months but has given up vaping due to family pressure over health concerns, in his words ” there are even articles in Readers Digest about the dangers, so there must be something in it”. The last time I saw him he was he was back on cigarettes full time.

  34. I started with cigalikes in 2012. They weren’t good enough, let me cut my smoking to half (50 to 25 a day) but as my purpose was mainly saving money as most of my income was spent on smoking, although my health was deteriorating and that was a reason, I have always enjoyed and been comforted by smoking. Eventually I was able to switch completely when I bought a 3rd gen device and didn’t even realise I’d switched, I just forgot to smoke after a period of reducing to 2 a day and finding myself vaping with a lit cigarette.
    I’d investigated and researched in depth after switching and, to my horror and great fear, I learnt that the EU would ban all devices that worked and reduce both strength and flavours with probably only sealed systems legally available. So I started smoking again, only a couple a day. I’d heard of so many who found the taste of tobacco disgusting but I’d not been a vaper long enough for that to have happened to me. I also loath tobacco and menthol flavour eliquid and they are likely to be all that are legally available.
    I know that the scares are rubbish but the law can be used to put vaping on the same level as heroin addiction without methadone for harm reduction.
    So if the TPD becomes law I’ll have a choice between black market cigarettes or black market eliquid that could have dangerous toxins in.
    If I’d have discovered vaping now I doubt I’d have switched if I knew of the TPD as well.

  35. I suspect that for many first time vapers they’ve walked into a newly opened retail establishment and bought what may well be a poor product. Having tried this poor product they then conclude that ecigs don’t work and it is well known that people are more inclined to voice negative experiences than positive ones. How many times have vapers heard the comment “tried one of them, but they were useless” The popularity in a retail sense of ecigs has drawn many “del boy” type “entrepreneurs” into opening shops, who have absolutely no experience of vaping or understand the industry. What matters to them is how cheap they buy and how much profit they can make. Nothing wrong with this attitude, but it’s not ideal in an industry where if you get it right you can become a full time quitter, but have a bad experience and you’re quickly and easily drawn back to smoking. It must also be noted that successful vaping requires a certain element of equipment maintenance/faffing, which for many smokers simply won’t be tolerated. Tobacco smoking is zero maintenance as you buy, you use, you buy again, but successful vaping requires a change in mindset to you buy, you use, you maintain, which is the one aspect that the tobacco industry do not want smokers to change to, as their business model is based on branding and repeat daily sales to maximise income and profits.

  36. Jonathan Bagley

    I’ve introduced several people to vaping and for most of them, it doesn’t work as a substitute. They are all younger than me and maybe age has something to do with it. The longer you smoke, the more worried you get about the health risks and the less perfect you need vaping to be.

  37. Jonathan Foulds

    I agree with much of the commentary so far, and wish to add one other explanation based on my experience in USA (accepting that the original data prompting this is from UK): Inability for e-cig marketers to tell their story and sell their unique selling points to consumers. Rather consumers in USA (e.g. at gas stations) now see about 4-10 brands of e-cigs with different names, prices and styles and frankly I don’t think the public really knows what to make of them.

    Blu, Vuse and MarkTen have the biggest advertising presence and sell simple, cigalike products with very poor nicotine delivery, but at least they are relatively simple for consumers to understand without feeling stupid at the counter. Then we have NJOY and a bunch of other cigalikes with confusing sounding names “Kookah Vape” and “Vape pen” etc…what does it mean to the consumer? Then we now have advanced products on sale in gas stations too…. Tank models with manual buttons from NJOY and a few other big companies, plus others from smaller, along with their bottles of flavored liquids and little carrying cases. However, I have yet to see any evidence that these c-store sales people have ever been provided with any information about these products, and when I ask (I frequently do), they hardly even know where to find them on the shelf never mind what the differences are.

    So I think the negative publicity along with consumer confusion has led to a weakening of consumer purchasing of e-cigs …along with the fact that most purchases are for the heavily marketed cigalike brands that end up being unsatisfying and likely put consumers off the category.

  38. It is my opinion that the drop in e-cigarette use is mostly, if not entirely down to propaganda. My opinion is not only based on deduction re. seriously negative press but also experience within my work. I have worked within the area of smoking cessation, Psychology and independent mental health advocacy and noticed about 7 months ago particularly people with mental health problems were saying as a propagated ‘mantra’ ‘they are as bad for you as cigarettes’ , ‘they are very dangerous’ or ‘they are worse for you than cigarettes’, when asking if they had tired them in their quit attempts.
    One smoking cessation service, to my horror was telling people in the clinics that ‘e-cigarettes have been untested and are very dangerous (this is an illogical statement in itself as if they had not been tested you would not know they were dangerous!)’. A member the the smoking cessation team also told people trying desperately to quit that ‘e-cigarettes burn your lungs in exactly the same way as cigarettes’!!!! After these experiences together with articles in the Mail and pseudo-scientific research I predicted that e-cigarette use would be significantly negatively effected. I actually told Prof. West and Hayek about my concerns re. the really negative message being channelled to people trying to quit and said they should do something about it!

    There are also some pharmacological reasons why e-cigarettes may not work for some e.g. they do not have a MAOI effect etc. However, in my humble experience anyone can quit using a good device that delivers enough nicotine very easily no matter how addicted they are.

  39. While it is likely impossible to know exactly what is going on, I think much of the blame lies with the propaganda. The products have been getting better, which would seem to argue for greater uptake, but the misinformation on relative risks has been advancing even faster than the technology.

    I am reminded of Robert Cirino’s brilliant book of the early 70s, ‘Don’t Blame the People’ wherein he made the case that people can only make as good a decision as the information provided to them allows. It is unfair to have a situation where they are systematically misled and then held accountable for poor decisions.

    So a very basic ethical step would be to stop misleading people. A good public health goal would be to empower them to make informed decisions. If that still left product related deficiencies that stood in the way of a faster move away from combustibles the increased demand from those consumers should ensure the market solves such issues fairly rapidly.

  40. So a very basic ethical step would be to stop misleading people. A good public health goal would be to empower them to make informed decisions.

    Unfortunately asking Public Health / Tobacco Control to stop misleading people about smoking or vaping is akin to asking a carnivorous predator to adopt a vegan diet. They’ve been disseminating lies and propaganda for so long that they don’t know how to do anything else.

    As I said in my comment above, it hasn’t been about health for the past few decades (have a look at the ‘Godber Blueprint’ for confirmation of that), it has only been about destroying the whole social culture of smoking. And the ethos has been ‘The end justifies the means’.

    So don’t expect any succour for e-cigs from Tobacco Control or Public Health. Because, you see, “It looks like smoking”, and that is anathema to both TC and PH. So it will be ‘de-normalised’, just like smoking tobacco has been. They will rig ‘research’, they will trot out their ‘experts’ to tell all and sundry how dangerous vaping is, and they will continue to issue bogus press releases to a supine and unquestioning MSM, doubtless quoting ridiculously high figures plucked out of the air (or spat out by SAMMEC) about how many people are killed worldwide by passive vaping.

    And thus the Tobacco Control gravy train will roll on unimpeded.

  41. Canuck Vaper

    One possible reason for the decline that I don’t think I saw mentioned above is this:
    Every week we hear or read about new bans or the governments plans to ban or tax vaping out of existence. I can imagine people are giving up in frustration thinking that in six months time they will no longer be able to buy the e-liquids or coils they need.
    Many people may not put any effort and money into vaping if the industry will be crushed in the near future.

  42. I have been vaping for about 2 months now. I do miss the odd cigarette, but can live without it, setting my mind to it. Then I read about this proposed regulation via the TPD, which is to come into place in 2016. This will make vaping more expensive, less choice, and less convenient. Just now I’m wondering if its worth the effort, when all my will power could be obliterated in a years time, and forced back to the burning of tobacco. Are governments missing the tax generated on tobacco? I think this proposal is disgusting and condemning people to death.

  43. Angel Tibbs

    From the comments I read in these articles – and I do read, and comment on, alot of them – there are many vapers who go down to zero nicotine, then stop vaping completely, but are still encouraging to all their fellow vapers on the threads.
    So I am going to whisper this – it looks like roughly a third of these vapers had given up vaping completely. No one tell the nutty ANTZ! They’d want a cessation status. But it happens.
    I myself will probably never stop vaping, and never go off nicotine completely, but once vapers get to zero, many of them do, in fact, continue with their healthier lives as new nonsmoker/vapers.
    Vaping is nothing if not diverse. And like you, I want what works for every individual, whatever that may be.
    The negative news stories ARE causing problems, especially in young smokers of my acquaintance who have not yet felt the detriments of long term tobacco use. The 20 somethings, at least in the US, seem to be the ones who believe the fear-mongering. One such told me vaping was as bad as smoking and this granny said, “No it isn’t, said the girl who smoked for 36 years.” He shut up right away, but somewhere he is probably still smoking.
    It’s these younger smokers who’d be less inclined to switch, IMO. A friend told me about vaping a year before I tried it – and he also mentioned his work treated it the same as smoking. I respected this friend’s opinion tremendously, and he was really not pushy about it, but I still waited another year or so till my nonsmoking daughter got me a cigalike. Kept me dual using for 6 months, plus since they come from Big Tobacco I don’t know what’s in them, but I did hear citric acid. Yuck!
    Nonsmoking adult son got me an Ego-T – happy on Gen 2 to this day. But it gradually just tasted and was all around better than smoking, so yes…a smoker will not switch unless it’s better than smoking, and I think an older smoker like myself would be likelier to try it than a younger smoker would, because we older smokers do notice the health toll.
    Interesting, as usual. Throw my thoughts in this lovely mix. Seems ex smokers are some eloquent people. Vape on!

  44. I’m Austrian, smoker for about 40 years. My first experience with e-cigarettes(what a name for a product that has almost nothing in common with tobacco/cigarettes) was in 2011. It didn’t work. The devices were unreliable, nicotine-Liquids were not allowed in Austria… It took me 7 years to be ready to give it another try. What keeps smokers away from e-cigarettes? Well, first and foremost it’s the negative propaganda that scares many off. Then there are the costs for the better devices and the liquids. And lack of information, understanding and knowledge. Also, ads are not allowed, business-websites have bern forced off the internet by law. Online ordering of products is impossible. Shops in and outside of Austria are not allowed to send any products by post. Vaping is now regulated under the tobacco-law. Shops are few not easy to find or to reach – especially if you live outside if the bigger cities. And there are a lot of concerns what the future will bring. Will vaping be banned for good? All of this reasons keep smokers away from vaping and bring vapers back to cigarettes. It’s frustrating and frightening for us all. We feel helpless and powerless – no one knows how to fight off the terrible blows that the media and politics keep throwing against us…
    LG, Ruana.

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