The Vaping Revolution Is Upending Big Tobacco
Although the vaunted hallways of Big Tobacco firms are still very much encased with the riches of old money and even older conquests, I imagine that the air inside is a little tense. What was once considered an unassailable industry similar to utility firms and the oil sector, traditional tobacco is now facing perhaps the biggest challenge in its history. And while the numbers may still look overwhelmingly impressive on their end, Big Tobacco is finally feeling the heat.
Electronic cigarettes, or more specifically, vaporizers, are fundamentally changing the way aficionados and the general public view tobacco and the broader act of smoking. Traditional cigarettes have grown to become not only a publicly known health hazard, but also as a nuisance. Associated with pungent odors, bad breath, and other undesirable attributes, smoking has gotten itself a not entirely undeserved reputation. What's more, the negative stereotypes linked to tobacco products are readily on display.
Contrast this dynamic with vaping. First off, most vaporizer manufacturers pride themselves in creating portable platforms that are high on functionality and discretion. Vapers, the preferred name for people who use vaporizers, are often young, mobile, movers and shakers. They don't need the extra noise emanating from the public. What they want is a vaporizer that delivers clear, clean draws whenever and wherever they request.
Most importantly from a social optics perspective, vapor emissions -- or clouds as they are known within the vaping community -- are rarely pungent and distracting. In fact, a wide array of e-juice flavors give off a pleasant aroma. Several companies specialize in fruit flavored e-juices and other pleasing tastes, such as dessert e-liquids. Typically, when a vaper emits plumes from these choice e-liquids, non-smokers often comment on how clean the emissions are. Unfortunately for Big Tobacco, that is something you will never hear from an analog cigarette.
Public perception isn't the only reason why the old and antiquated tobacco industry is concerned. Their accounting team can read the financials, and they tell a tale of eventual inevitability. Back prior to the onset of the Great Recession, vaping was carving out a niche for itself. There were only a handful of pioneer retailers selling vaporizers and related accessories. Foot traffic was fairly light, and aggregate sales reflected this malaise. All told, industry revenue in 2008 hit only $20 million.
If we had to pick out the one year that was the defining moment for vaporizers, it was 2012. By this time, retailers and manufacturers worked out some initial bugs and early kinks. They were ready to hit the prime time. Vaping advocates took to the streets and through social media, engaging in a full-spectrum campaign to spread interest and awareness. Their efforts paid off in full, with vaporizer sales hitting a cool $500 million.
That was when critical mass was reached. Momentum towards vaping and the vaping culture was too profoundly powerful to ignore. Big Tobacco firms finally started to give the vaporizer industry their due respect, but stopping them outright became an impossible task. By the following year of 2013, vape shops were sprouting like wildfire. By the end of the year, the industry cracked the $1 billion mark.
If the alarm hadn't sounded earlier, it definitely began rousing tobacco executives now. The problem of course was that the momentum had begun to snowball. There was too much kinetic energy exerted, and the only chance of stopping it was a brunt force application greater in magnitude.
This of course is easier said than done. It can also be incredibly expensive, even for old money firms. Yet Big Tobacco had to do something. Although the market capitalization of these major institutions register in the hundreds of billions, vaping threatened future cash flow. In other words, the risk wasn't centered on the nominal pain caused by one or two years of strong sales. Of course, the sole billion that was generated by vaping did not go into Big Tobacco's wallet. But the real problem was that the one billion were sales that would likely never come back to them again.
For the executives of these companies, it was similar to the devastation of a retiree getting a cutback on their pension. Only in this case, the pension was provided by unwitting subjects addicted to Big Tobacco's offerings. Then came an upstart revolution that exposed the tricks of the tobacco industry, and in its place, provided an avenue of exercising personal liberty through autonomy. No longer were smokers tethered to a single sector. The vaping industry offered a new world of possibilities, one that they were all too eager to explore.
And that is the genesis of the vaping revolution. The technological platform is just the cherry on top of the cake, a well-tailored garment that form fits the subject. But the essence of vaping is the spirit of independence and personal liberties.
Big Tobacco claims to promote this character, but it only does so as a profit incentive, funneling addicted and misinformed individuals into making poor decisions for the benefit of corporate executives. On the other hand, the unique aspect of vaping is that the industry encourages the open sourcing of information and ideas. They give the dignity of informed choices to the vaper.
Because of this, a rapidly growing number of former smokers are turning towards vaping as a viable alternative to an addictive and dangerous habit, while still being able to enjoy personal liberties. They typically do this through controlled exposure to nicotine flavors, eventually whittling it down to minimal usage. The ultimate goal of course is to get down to zero usage -- and many former smokers do exactly that.
However, vaping isn't just for tobacco smokers desiring a shift to a less harmful alternative. Since the rise of the portable vaporizer, the allocation of vape users has included the ranks of non-smokers. These are usually people who have never thought about smoking a cigarette, but had their curiosity piqued by their vaping friends. As previously mentioned, vaping looks like smoking, but without the nasty side effects resultant from traditional tobacco products.
There's also the controversial trend of teens gravitating towards vaporizers. While the entire vaping industry is committed to following all the laws and mandates of the land, and would never encourage underage use of any platform, there is one positive takeaway. Vaporizers are not inherently addictive devices -- they are merely the channels by which the end-user draws from their flavors. However harmful or harmless the vaporizer is all depends on the vaper.
While I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the words of a teenager, we should all be open to the fact that not all vapers use nicotine in their vaping devices. Many find pleasure and enjoyment with the myriad of e-juices that are nicotine-free. Indeed, the science is very clear on the matter -- nicotine is an obnoxious substance and will interfere unfavorably with e-liquids. Therefore, it's only in the best interest of the vaper to kick their nicotine addiction as soon as possible.
Logically, that means that those who have never smoked before can not only find enjoyment with vaporizers that are on par with the experience of former smokers, but also, they are better suited to extract the vaping's true potential. Because nicotine is an undesirable substance in the vaporizer platform, non-smokers have the advantage of not having to deal with nicotine withdrawals and thus, the usage of nicotine e-juices.
Another big advantage for non-smokers is that vaping isn't associated with the serious health complications that can arise from long term smoking. We've all seen the disturbing commercials of those who have smoked traditional cigarettes for decades on end. New vapers can enter into the world of vaping knowing that they don't have to suffer the health repercussions of nicotine-based products.
But the greatest incentive to join the vaping revolution for non-smokers is that this is a community that is all for one, and one for all. Fellow vapers come from all walks of life. Whether they are former smokers, or herbal enthusiasts, and everything in between, they all share one passion: the pursuit of the perfect vape.