Since they first appeared on the market around 20 years ago, e-cigarettes and more specifically, the usage of them, has increased rapidly. There are various studies and reports on the topic and most suggest that global usage has grown from about 6.5 million to around 80 million as of today. An e-cigarette replaces the inhalation of smoke with vapour thus e-cigarette usage is regularly referred to as ‘vaping’.
Although less harmful than smoking, vaping is still considered detrimental to the human body, particularly as a result of the variety of chemicals inhaled during usage. The chemicals are considered to be contributory to lung disease as well as cardiovascular complications.
Discussions around the surge in popularity of vaping centre largely around whether vaping is a cleaner alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. However, are there other reasons why vaping has surged in popularity? In this blog, Hamilton Forth Consultant, Josh Moreland considers three factors which appear to be catalysts for why more people than ever before are picking up a vape, often having never smoked cigarettes previously.
Vaping Can be Personalised
Currently at mass-market level there are 4 main ‘types’ of e-cigarettes; disposable, cigalikes, mods and sub-ohmers. Disposables (as the name suggests) can be thrown away after single consumption. Cigalikes contain a rechargeable battery and traditionally mimic the look of a normal cigarette. Mods are a bit more cumbersome, encompassing the chunky base of a vape kit; but allowing the user to change vape flavour, as well as possessing more power for a heavier vape sensation. Sub-ohmers are designed to support DTL (direct-to-lung) vaping – not typically advised for those new to vaping.
Across the 4 different types of e-cigarettes, it is clear that individuality and personalisation is key to the marketing efforts of e-cig manufacturers, allowing users to customize flavours, devices and even the method of inhalation as per their vaping preferences. This can be particularly appealing to users who like to follow particular flavour trends or simply like variety in their vaping experience.
Online Promotion to a Receptive Audience
In surveys completed by ASH (action on smoking and health) in July 2022, questions were asked to vapers about the promotion of e-cigarettes. Their response found that over half (56%) of 11-17 year olds were aware of e-cigarette promotion in shops as well as online. 45% of respondents said that TikTok was their main source of online promotion whilst a further 31% cited Instagram as where they saw the most vaping advertising and marketing. Worryingly, despite it being illegal to sell vape-kits to under-18s, 47% of the 11-17 demographic who use vapes said they were able to purchase their kits and e-cigarettes in shops with little-to-no questioning.
There are a number of celebrities who openly vape and support doing so – Leonardo Di Caprio, Samuel L Jackson, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Jack Nicholson and Robbie Williams have all been photographed vaping, and even professional sports-stars such as Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and snooker legend Jimmy White are open with their usage of e-cigarettes.
No longer a ‘Cancer Stick’ and more a Piece of Trendy Tech
Perhaps one of the most prominent factors in understanding the increase in those who vape is derived from the belief system (possibly a misplaced one) that e-cigarettes aren’t in the same sphere as traditional cigarettes, cigars and pipes; instead, they are seen as their own subdomain of technology interaction. Many of those who vape having previously smoked cigarettes cite a desire to be healthier or avoid long-term health conditions, but amongst the demographic of people who have never smoked before but have tried vaping, studies have suggested that the behaviour of vaping has more to do with being trendy than health reasons.
Amanda K. Greene, a PhD research associate at The University of Michigan (and a contributor to the Journal of Health Communication) completed an in-depth assessment of vaping, particularly focussing on the behaviour of young adults who vape and the online influencers who use vaping imagery and videos. In her study, Ms Greene’s ‘highlights’ suggested that the promotion tactics from male marketers centred around treating vape products as trendy technology; whereas females tended to focus on appearance and were more likely to share imagery and content foregrounding sex appeal.
Whatever the reason(s) for the increase in vaping, it is undeniable that e-cigarette usage is currently at an all-time high and seems set to continue that way for the foreseeable future. Because the behaviour is still (comparatively) new, there are many unknowns about the long-term effects on physical and mental health. In the UK, the NHS even includes a section on its website highlighting the use of e-cigarettes in helping to abstain from traditional smoking, even promoting the fact that as yet, there’s no evidence to suggest that passive inhalation of vapes poses a threat to others’ health.
Based on the variety of other factors out there, the idea that people choose to vape because it’s a better alternative to cigarettes might just be a load of smoke and mirrors.
For further discussion around technological developments or for support with your hiring needs or career advice, please contact one of the Hamilton Forth team for a confidential discussion or to share ideas on the latest trends and behaviours in the market.