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Are E-Cigarettes Losing Ground in The Vapor Market? April 19 2014

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    Electronic cigarettes have managed to build up enough of a fast-growing following that the big tobacco companies are all moving into the market with products of their own. And even if some think that smokers are unlikely to switch en masse from smoke to nicotine vapor, Big Tobacco is still taking the market seriously.

    While e-cigarettes made by the industry’s giants have plenty of advantages, from distribution to scale and marketing power, some stand-alone makers think they can carve a niche as early-moving independents, with nimbler feet and smarter brands.

    But a new note from tobacco industry analyst Bonnie Herzog at Wells Fargo raises another reason why Big Tobacco may struggle: some of the most passionate “vapers” are skipping the big brands of packaged e-cigarettes in favor of more specialized devices known as “vapors,” “tanks” and “mods.”

    These can be refilled with nicotine liquids made by a range of producers, as opposed to typical e-cigarettes that are either disposable or refillable only with the company’s own brand of cartridges. Serious users seem to be taking to them in large numbers:

    The typical vaper is a former smoker, first tried e-cigs, but quickly moved to tank-style systems and eventually mods, which offer a much stronger battery and a superior vaping experience. Further, a 15mL bottle of smoke juice (which costs around $15) is roughly equivalent to 5-7 packs of combustible cigs, implying that vaping is substantially more affordable than combustible cigs and rechargeable e-cigs.

    Also, since e-vapor products tend to be less addictive than combustible cigs, vapers typically taper down the nicotine levels of their smoke juice with many vapers eventually reaching zero nicotine. As we saw during our visit, the cig-alike e-cigs as they are today are already becoming “your father’s e-cig”.

    E-cigarette makers will need to “bridge the performance gap” between their products and the more powerful options available to serious vapers, Ms. Herzog wrote. She estimates those devices now account for more than a third of the total $2.2 billion market for electronic vapor products:

    Wells Fargo

    One conclusion from Ms. Herzog: “While we believe the combined profit pool of combustible cigs and e-vapor will continue to grow, we increasingly question which company(ies) will capture the bulk of the profits. We question how the Big 3 will or could get involved, especially given part of the vaping culture is a disdain for Big Tobacco and not wanting to be associated with smoking or be considered a smoker.”



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