Five things about vaping
Ten years ago, teen smoking in the US was in a 20-year decline. Then along came vaping.
- The global market for e-cigarettes and vaping products is predicted to grow 30% a year from 2022 to 2030.
- Although e-cigarettes don’t produce tar, chemicals in the vapour can potentially damage lungs and impair blood vessel function.
- Big Tobacco companies have a presence in the vaping market.
1. The global market for e-cigarettes is worth more than US$18 billion
That was in 2021; it’s expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30% from 2022 to 2030, according to a Grand View Research report. One of the most popular vaping brands in Australia among young people is VOOPOO. In the US, Juul, which looks like a USB drive, has most of the youth market. (Although in 2020 it had shrunk to 42% of the US vaping market, from a high of 75% in 2018.) Juul achieved a US$10 billion valuation faster than any other company in history, including Facebook. Part of that may have been due to its chemical engineering of high nicotine content into flavours including Glacier Mint, Mango Nectar, Cucumber and Alpine Berry. (In Australia, you need a prescription to buy e-liquid containing nicotine.) There are concerns that such fruity flavours make vaping and e-cigarettes attractive to children and teenagers.
2. Vaping attracts high-schoolers
A 2017 survey of Australian school students found 14% of students aged 12–17 had used an e-cigarette at least once, while almost half (48%) of students who vaped had never smoked tobacco before trying an e-cigarette. About a quarter of the students who vaped before ever smoking tobacco said they later went on to try traditional cigarettes. (The same survey found 82% of all secondary students in Australia had never smoked.)
3. E-cigarettes produce unsafe toxins
The first commercialised e-cigarettes were developed in China in 2003, and relatively little research has been done on their safety. The claims e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes are not proven. While e-cigarettes don’t produce tar like regular cigarettes, they do give off toxins and chemicals such as formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible lung damage. Vapers also run the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown e-cigarettes impair blood vessel function and e-cigarette users are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
4. Social media is to vaping what movies were to cigarettes
Cigarette smoking was made cool by Hollywood films – think James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause – and vaping has been popularised by social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube where hashtags including #vape, #vapelife, #vapesale and #ejuice make it easy to find vaping posts and influencers. A 2021 study in the US for the Florida Department of Health found that a higher level of social media use among adolescents was associated with a greater susceptibility to use e-cigarettes.
5. Big Tobacco fights back
In February, The Australian Financial Review revealed that tobacco giant Philip Morris had secretly channelled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Australian Retailers Association, through public relations company Burson Cohn & Wolfe, to lobby for the legalisation of e-cigarettes. Internationally, vaping brand VUSE is owned by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, a subsidiary of the tobacco giant Reynolds America. British American Tobacco (BAT), the largest tobacco company in Europe, launched Vype about four years ago, and Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris USA) is a part-owner of Juul.