E-cigarettes ignite interest as US market grows by $250m in past year, Mintel reports


With each passing day, the national pool of smokers seems to be going up in smoke, as Americans feel mounting pressure to quit for health and lifestyle reasons. When it comes time to put words into action and take that leap, many people are now turning to e-cigarettes to help vaporise their habit. Indeed, according to new research from Mintel, e-cigarettes have exhibited massive growth over the last two years, with sales increasing from $283m in 2012 to $537m in 2013. 

Furthermore, 34% of Americans who have quit or are interested in quitting smoking think e-cigarettes are an effective means to kick the habit, placing it second behind nicotine patches (35%) in perceived effectiveness.  

The growth in e-cigarettes is in sharp contrast to the growth of the smoking cessation category, which only grew by $95 million from 2008-2013 — a 10% increase — and saw growth actually decrease by 1.7% between 2012-2013. Between 2013 and 2018, Mintel forecasts growth of only $7m. Meanwhile, e-cigarette sales in 2013 put this half-a-billion-dollar market on par with smoking cessation gum, the largest segment of the smoking cessation market.

“The sharp falloff in growth of the smoking cessation category between 2012 and 2013, and the forecasted decline over the next five years are largely due to the explosive popularity of e-cigarettes,” said Molly Maier, category manager, health, household, beauty & personal care at Mintel. “Despite the fact that these products are not an FDA-approved means of quitting smoking, and thus are not included in the sales of the rest of the category, many smokers who would otherwise use NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) products, such as gum, tablets, patches, and sprays, are now looking to e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and for controlling and ultimately reducing their nicotine cravings.”

Among the different segments of the population, Hispanic respondents show a higher-than-average tendency to smoke e-cigarettes, and tend to smoke them more regularly, with 32% of respondents saying they have tried them, compared to a 25% average. Millennials also show a much higher inclination to use and trust e-cigarettes, with 63% of those aged 25-34 claiming that they feel that e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit smoking, which is the highest percent response across all age groups and cessation products.  Men are also much more apt to use e-cigarettes, with 30% having tried them as opposed to just 21% of females.  

“Those who have either successfully quit smoking or are trying to quit smoking are more likely than current smokers to have tried e-cigarettes, pointing to the role these products play as a cessation aid,” Maier said. “Yet unlike traditional smoking cessation products, e-cigarettes are not designed specifically to help a smoker reduce the amount of nicotine s/he consumes, but rather replace the act of smoking traditional cigarettes with vapor-based nicotine delivery devices. High nicotine availability and an experience that closely resembles the act of smoking are also the primary reasons why smokers find e-cigarettes more appealing than smoking cessation products.”

So at the end of the day, which method do smokers prefer to help them quit? It would seem most still prefer an old-school approach that eschews cessation products all together.  The most popular (76% of those interested in quitting smoking) option is gradually reducing the number of cigarettes. 65% of smokers would or have gone cold turkey and 70% report that they would or have tried exercise to curb their addiction.  

“With tough competition from e-cigarettes and prescription anti-smoking products, the OTC smoking cessation market has struggled to grow faster than inflation and will continue to do so in the future. As consumers weigh all their options when thinking about quitting smoking, many will compare costs, and some will choose the easiest, rather than the healthiest option,” said Maier.