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Is vaping sticky enough? And how can we tell?

Is vaping sticky enough? And how can we tell?

About the author
Oliver Kershaw

Oliver Kershaw

Founder of and co-founder of

An essay by Oliver Kershaw & Amelia Howard

There is a disconnect between the tobacco research community and the vaping user-community. Both groups have almost totally divergent knowledge-base of the technology; the former based on its existing tobacco research agenda, the latter based on practical experience with the technology and through peer-learning and marketing.

We contend that vape is not an extension of the medical science paradigm or the tobacco control paradigm and, therefore, that the techniques used to (simultaneously) understand and tackle tobacco usage are wholly inappropriate in understanding vape. We are not saying that these established paradigms are illegitimate or irrelevant. But they do not work well when it comes to understanding user-driven technology, which, importantly, is also not an extension of the tobacco industry.

This has led to a continued and intractable divergence between the practice community that makes and uses the products and the communities publishing research. It is still true to say, as it has been true to say since the technology appeared that the productive, and perhaps the only way, to understand vape is as a consumer.

Our current situation is not good: Regulations are being made based on a body of evidence that comes from the wrong expert community. Wrong because the evidence was generated from an epistemological position that is alien to consumer-driven, emergent technology - or technology more generally. Business decisions are being made based on the same flawed understanding. Once made, regulations will set vaping down a path that will be very difficult to reverse. There is little indication that regulatory decisions are being made with any meaningful understanding of the products or innovation ecosystem being regulated. If this does not change, the opportunity is lost in the United States.

In this first part of a two-part essay, we explore and try to demonstrate one way in which an ill-fitted research agenda leads to misrepresentation of the “real world” of vape. In the second part, we’ll look deeper at how research questions might actually uncover something that tells us how vape should be understood, regulated and innovated within.

Sticky Vape

One of the big takeaways from the E-Cigarette Summit was, it appears, the notion that vape isn’t “sticky” enough compared to cigarettes. Jonathan Foulds made this observation during his presentation, in which he stated that (from the P.A.T.H data):

“of those who have used an e-cig in the past 30 days, only 12.7% have NOT used another tobacco product in the past 30 days. i.e. 87% of current e-cig users are dual users with another tobacco product, mainly cigarettes.”

For sure, this does read like vape isn’t “transporting” vapers away from smoking in droves. It sounds like it’s failing. But there’s so much missing from the picture. 

The P.A.T.H picture

A couple of important observations to begin with: Fould’s figures are derived from the first wave of P.A.T.H data, collected between 2013 and 2014. As any vaper knows, there’s a chasm of difference between what was available then and what’s available now.

Importantly, though, is the perspective taken here: In the period September 2013 to December 2014, 13% of e-cig users were full-on “vapers” and had stopped smoking.

This particular era is what we refer to as: “the dawn of vape”. It had all just gotten going. Here’s a quick and dirty way of seeing what we mean, using Google Trends (Google Trends is a powerful tool – it gives you a relative picture of search volume on specific keywords).

Dawn of Vape From Google Trends US

There is a lot of bravado around P.A.T.H, and it’s easy to see why: It is a huge and detailed survey with an initial budget of nearly $120M. This is very impressive, but this kind of survey is problematic for the task of studying a developing technology like vape, precisely because its temporal resolution is poor, as compared with, say, Robert West’s (UK) Smoking Toolkit Study, which collects data continuously and analyses quarterly. In contrast, the STS costs just ~$200k per year.

A recent report by ECig Intelligence ($) showed that ~25% of current US vapers are fully smoke-free. If this data generalizes ( Ecig Intelligence are confident in their sampling methodologies), we’ll have witnessed the doubling in “efficacy” (if we define efficacy as a full switch) in just three years. Important question: can any other technology aimed at ending smoking boast this?

Why is vaping less sticky than smoking?

Cigarettes are better at soliciting exclusivity from users than e-cigarettes.  Why?

  1. Established v.s. “beta” technology: Cigarettes are established and “work well” whereas e-cigarettes are new, and vary in performance, in terms of nicotine delivery, ease of use, required maintenance, price, etc. The technologies have improved a great deal in recent years.
  2. Smokers who use e-cigarettes may be promiscuous in their tobacco consumption habits to begin with. Forty percent of cigarette smokers use other tobacco products. It could be the case that cigarette smokers who try vape are those more inclined towards multi-product use in the first place. The inverse of this could also be a factor: the most “faithful” cigarette users who try vaping to reduce harm may be drawn to the most cigarette-like vaping models which are known to be underpowered and less effective at delivering nicotine. Most exclusive vapers have made a tradeoff and gave up cigarette form-factor for more powerful, refillable systems, and “Faithful” cigarette users may not be open to this. It’s also been noted that those who use vaping product may be more dependent on tobacco products.
  3. F.U.D. (Fear Uncertainty Doubt): When we talk about the adoption of any technology or consumer product, context matters. Between September 2013 to December 2014, the context was a massive push to pressure the FDA to assert jurisdiction over vape products. Moreover, states were beginning to tax the products and place limits on their use. So in this particular time-span, health groups and local health departments were collectively spending millions of dollars on vaping-specific counter-marketing and PR that had a wide reach. They specifically cast doubts on the “effectiveness” of the products in helping people stop smoking, highlighted numerous (exaggerated) dangers of vaping, while also making them out to be extremely lame. Perhaps the most disturbing feature of these campaigns was that they distorted the relative risk of vaping relative to smoking in the minds of many people who smoked, and who may have switched had they known the actual difference in risk.

An analyst’s view

Following the E-Cigarette Summit, May 8th, Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog reported in her “Takeaways From First U.S. E-Cig Summit” email that 87% of vape consumers continue to smoke and to smoke as much as they did previously:

“ e-cigs may be less harmful than cigs, but smoker satisfaction still remains weak – 87% of e-cig users still smoke the same amount of combustible cigs (dual-users) because they don’t find e-cigs to be as good or better at delivering nicotine

To be clear,  this is Bonnie’s takeaway. It’s not her opinion - it’s what she heard from the Summit. Now. Whatever someone like Bonnie Herzog takes away from an event like the Summit and reports to her audience matters, a lot, because it goes on to shape the opinion of numerous people in the business world.  We believe that “what business people will hear” in this particular account is illustrative of the broken-ness of the process by which vape is being evaluated"”. So let’s unpack it.

“e-cigs may be less harmful than cigs, but….”

This is a neatly ironic article of speech for two reasons. The first, is that the relative risk of vaping compared to smoking is one of the few issues that established methods in nicotine and tobacco research are well suited to answer.

There is near uniform agreement in the expert community that vaping is indeed safer than smoking. We consistently see the word “may” floating around in statements about vaping’s harm relative to cigarettes. Seeing it here indicates that a poor comprehension of vaping technology is not the only problem in American tobacco control; it appears to be failing to translate its own knowledge to the public. To her credit, Bonnie addresses this later in her email with reference to the CDC’s duty to inform Americans of the difference. The Summit heard convincingly and overwhelmingly that vaping is safer than smoking.

The second bit of irony is that Bonnie’s “may” illustrates, and probably contributes to,  a central reason that vaping is less “sticky” than smoking:  smokers remain unconvinced or unaware of the radical difference in safety between cigarettes and vape.

“...smoker satisfaction still remains weak”

Vapers can be a little chauvinistic about vape. Vape is not the only answer to the problem of smoking, despite the protestations of those who’ve found it works very well for them (and who can blame them?). For some people vape is simply not appropriate now and might not be ever. Smokeless tobacco and NRT products remain important for many. 

But Bonnie’s is an unfair characterisation. A great number of vapers have found vape is perfectly satisfying and works very well for them, and they were all formerly smokers. Not to mention those in the vaping community who have taken so enthusiastically to the technologies that they’ve participated in the process of innovating, freely share their knowledge with new users on forums, or have mobilized politically in attempts to save vaping from the threat of regulations that favour cigarette companies. Certainly for these former smokers, “satisfaction” did not remain weak. What’s going on here?

It’s all new!

Here’s how we think you should think about it: This is a new technology. We’re not even 10 years into the story.

The first “wave” of vape consisted of most smokers rejecting the nascent technology. But it also consisted of a core group of committed vapers, analogous to any type of tech enthusiast or product enthusiast who actively engaged in persevering with, adapting and improving the products.

Importantly, few smokers were satisfied with e-cigarettes in the beginning. And adopting the technology had far more to do with a willingness to live with (and often modify or adapt) something that was less than perfect. Trying vaping early on was more than consumption, it was participation, and some of this remains today in the currently available products. Of course, this participatory process was never going to suit everyone, and so plenty more smokers dropped out than persevered.

In other words, many people who “tried” vaping didn’t actually try vaping.

An important issue that has gone largely unremarked is that the people who don’t take to vaping don’t take to it for a whole range of reasons that vapers don’t have access to. Vapers don’t have access to these reasons - at least not by virtue of their experience in vaping - since these smokers don’t stick around in the vaping world (but vapers do precisely because they take to it!). 

The complex and many reasons that smokers may reject vaping have yet to receive serious consideration in the literature on use.  

Lack of satisfaction may be one reason that smokers abandoned vaping early on, or why they “dual use” now - but there are likely several reasons. But if no one is asking, how can we possibly identify them?

Furthermore, the elephant that remains in the room: this technology “came of age” in the context of (nearly) zero marketing on its behalf and amidst a VAST amount of “counter-marketing”. Viewed this way, 13% of users having made the transition in 2013/14 should be startling and encouraging.

That said, Bonnie’s statement does raise the very real problem that the vaping market lacks a product that is as easy and satisfying as a cigarette. There is a lot more to be done to make vaping products satisfying to smokers. The question is: who is in the best position do the doing? The regulators? The cigarette companies? Other large companies? Or, maybe, the people using them?

"87% of e-cig users still smoke the same amount of combustible cigs (dual-users)"

We’ve gone through Kasza et al. (the P.A.T.H based study that Foulds referenced) and cannot see where the “same amount of combustible cigs” notion is drawn from, but let’s take it as “correct”.

The main problem here is: What’s a user? Sincerely, what is a user? Think it through for a minute.

There are likely several different user typologies in that that 87%. Here are a few:

  1.     Someone who tried a vape product in the period in question, hated it, stopped. They carried on smoking as before.
  2.     Someone who is using a vape product regularly where they can’t smoke, and smoking where they can smoke. They continue like this.
  3.     Someone who is using a vape product regularly where they can’t smoke, and smoking where they can smoke. At some point, they will smoke less and vape more.
  4.     Someone who enjoys vaping, but enjoys smoking too. They smoke as before, but add a new behavior on top.

You can probably think of more. And you’ll be correct. Our point is that this blanket 87% figure would include an awful lot of behaviors.

So, let’s go back to the central question: “What is a user?”

It hasn’t been answered and is barely even considered in any of the official literature on e-cigarette use. Some researchers have thought about how “use” should be better measured, partly in response to some of the dire misuse of “ever-use data” from CDC surveys, and a partly in response to a late-in-the game recognition that not all measures of cigarette consumption transfer easily to vape.

The question needs to be asked at a much more basic level.

Whatever it is that is settled on that constitutes “a user”, it’s always going to involve a certain kind of relationship to the product. The four examples above make this plain. They highlight the need for a concept of “user” that can handle the heterogeneity of the category without rendering it meaningless. We propose conceptualizing use as a relationship between people and that which is being “used.”

How does one begin to understand the important things like: “what is it the ‘committed’ vaper gets out of vaping that ends up negating the transient state (that so many people find problematic) of ‘dual user’?”

“because they don’t find e-cigs to be as good or better at delivering nicotine”

At this point, it should be clear that we believe that reducing “efficacy” of e-cigarettes to the “extent to which they are as good or better at delivering nicotine” is nonsense, and we don’t think it’s what Foulds was saying.

That said, getting anything, including nicotine, out of an e-cigarette has a learning curve. Hajek et al., have shown that experienced vapers are very good at getting the nicotine from vape products. The problem is smokers aren’t learning to get the nicotine from the products. The factors preventing them from learning are numerous.

The decision to blame the technology is political, and, in the case of an evolving technology, somewhat premature: these factors are not the fault of the technology, they’re simply a fact of a technology that is still evolving.

Gimme something I can use:

Top-down innovation - the future that Deeming heralds

NRT; behavioural quitting programs; Blu/Vuse/Mark10; IQos; Allen Carr; Juul; a cigarette: They are all designed for a particular version of a consumer that wants a particular thing. Take NRTs. They are not designed with the person who smokes for satisfaction in mind. Well, they are, but only if we understand satisfaction in terms of a nicotine fix. NRT design will satisfy a consumer who understands the experience of satisfaction they get from cigarettes as defective, as an illness that needs treatment.

For this consumer, satisfaction comes from finally exiting the “recreational” tobacco market. Nicotine replacement is means to an end: a cure for wanting to smoke. Alternative relations to the product are eliminated, or understood “deviant.” NRT is designed to work within a highly regulated medical/pharmaceutical world, and presumes a consumer who is “ready to quit” and willing to tolerate such a world in pursuit of some state where they can be  “free” from wanting or needing nicotine.

There’s a very good example of this. The “inhaler” product is almost universally loathed by smokers. It’s unpleasant to use and it looks awful. Incredibly, though, the poor visual appearance is by design. In its original incarnation, the inhalator was a “cigalike” because, similarly to early vaping products, the assumption was that a familiar form-factor would appeal to smokers.

The reason it was turned into something that smokers often refer to as “the tampon applicator”, is because the medical regulators believed that a cigalike would have abuse liability. So they made the makers make it ugly.

In contrast, vape is a smoker-driven technology that seeks to create a better cigarette. In other words, vape is functionally designed to supersede cigarettes, where ST/NRT require a major change in the consumption of nicotine. Pretty obvious, right?

The problem is that “a better cigarette” is a hard thing to create. In many respects, as Oliver’s noted elsewhere, the cigarette is a beguiling creation. It’s almost perfect in every way in the moment. And the convenience, the semiotics, the distribution of cigarettes are difficult for any new product to compete with. Admitting this is important, because when you do you can start to realise how hard a product the cigarette is to better.

How do we make e-cigarettes “stickier” for smokers? We need to think bigger than nicotine delivery. For a smoker to want to use a vape product instead of a cigarette, the vape must offer something more than a cigarette.

For many, vape already does this. How can we understand what makes this so? More importantly, how can we understand why vape becomes “sticky” for some and fails for others? We’ll look at that in Part 2.

Amelia Howard Amelia is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Waterloo (Canada). She is interested in the social, political and cultural dimensions of expert knowledge-making in science and technology. Amelia's dissertation research documents the response of experts, regulators, and incumbent industries to the growth of the independent vape market in the United States.
Oliver Kershaw is the founder of, the site where vaping began.
  • Leo Nicholson

    While vaping has many social advantages over smoking, three others stand out: (1) Vaping reduces health issues.. (2) Vaping has effectively replaced smoking for millions. (3) Vaping can be far less expensive than smoking. Four in my family have adopted vaping and completely replaced smoking for four and one-half years. I personally feel vaping falls under the Constitution's "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

  • BobbyV

    I started vaping over five years ago after smoking for more than 30 years.I continued smoking about one-half pack a day while spending six months searching for the right combination of hardware and e-juice. I thank those experienced e-cigarette users posting on E-cigarette Forum [] for their help in evaluating the thousands of vaping products available. I've also reduced the nicotine level in my e-juice to 1 mg from a starting level of 24 mg. My wife says my breathing while sleeping now sounds like it did when I was in my twenties. I've been tobacco free for almost five years and have no desire for tobacco in any form.

  • Claude WS

    I turned to vape exclusively in March 2013. Never touched tobacco since.

    In my experience, all people I saw using tobacco and e-cig eventually went back to tobacco exclusively. Meaning that people that keeps on vaping do not use tobacco.

    In my view, this "87% keep on using tobacco" is simple propaganda... an attempt to manufacture some mass consent. The typical corporate strategy.... planting doubts.

    Long live the growing vape community !

  • Dmember

    I stopped a 40 yr. menthol-tobacco smoking habit in one day after discovering the e-cig. It was a miracle for me that I'd prayed for for a very long time. I just couldn't believe it was true. That happened in 2009 and I'll never forget that day. I know that for some very strange but still mysterious reason we're not supposed to say that vaping causes people to stop smoking but the true sure does! Vaping does what all the nicotine patches and gums cannot and never could. I thank God for the e-cig. I sure couldn't do that with cigarettes.

  • Rod Peel

    I smoked for close to 50 years, starting with cigarettes, moving on to small cigars and after a couple of years I almost exclusively smoked a pipe (only returning to cigarettes when there was no pipe tobacco available). I always have inhaled (pipe included). About 3 or four years ago I toyed with e-cigarettes - rechargeable batteries but modular non refillable 'filters'. I really didn't get on with these and frequently 'lit up' the pipe. When the refillable 'vapers' became available I tried again, using 24mg nicotine vape liquids. These vapers proved to be unreliable, fiddly and somewhat messy. The pipe was agin my frequent companion. In 2013 I started to research vaping mor thoroughly and decided that I would try a temperature controlld vaper with a very different aspect ratio to both cigarettes and pipes. This was an immediate hit although I found it rather difficult to maintain my vape liquid supplies in any way other than mail order. In 2014 I retired to Bolivia by which time I was on 100% Vape and I had started formulating my own liquids, predominantly with menthol flavour. This is by far the cheapest way to vape with 1 litre of mixture costing around £16. Since then I have steadily reduced the nicotine concentration down to 2mg / ml and expect soon to reduce this to zero. Whether I will ever give up vaping, I don't know because - like smoking a pipe - there is a certain psychology connected to the manual preparation of the 'smoke'. All I can say is that since 2014 I have felt much healthier, I have no respiratory trauma (smokers cough) and have no ill effects when visiting high altitude locations such as La Paz and Lake Titicaca. The medical community is on record saying that Vaping is a healthier option to Smoking. I for one can wholeheatedly endorse that view.

  • Warren Roth

    For me, the most prevalent issue is a political one; why should vaping in general be so restricted when it is clear that the health benefits of vaping vs smoking are so overt. I smoked nearly 40 years and when I developed early Emphysema, sought an alternative to smoking. Quitting hadn't worked despite half a dozen formal attempts with every nicotine delivery mechanism short of intramuscular injection; therefore, when commercial vaping products came along (as primitive as they were) I too flirted with a combination of vaping and smoking together. After weeks of that I decided to stop and in the space if a single day, I became a "vaper" no longer a "smoker" That was nearly 10 years ago and except for a single attempt to smoke again many years ago, I never have. That single attempt tasted like I had lit up a shop rag and I couldn't even fathom a second puff.
    I don't need the data to know that my decision to vape instead of smoke was the right choice. I stopped using the multiple daily Bronchial-dilators and steroids needed for symptom relief and the stench and stigma of being a smoker is gone forever. Despite the clear benefit to me of vaping, I find the political alignment of vaping to smoking at any cost the true enemy. Politicians decided long ago that vaping is smoking and vice versa, one in the same; consequently, people trust that politicians would surely not say that vaping is as bad as smoking unless it were true, and so it goes. The ridiculous reality here is that a product that is many times safer than tobacco is to be effectively banned while leaving cigarettes and other forms of tobacco available. Of course most portfolios, have a significant slice of tobacco stock, one which has been undoubtedly profitable over the years and as a result, our leaders don't want to degrade a source of wealth, so tobacco continues to prosper and anything that threatens it does not. This isn't leadership, it's greed and in my mind the true force behind the degradation of vaping

  • José Luis

    After 3.3 years vaping i'm convinced it saved my life. I completely quit smoking (1 pack a day for almost 40 years). I think the vaping industry should keep working to reach a more effective way to deliver/absorve the nicotine to the users, because that would turn in even more smokers. I think the old "starter kits" should dissapear from the market and save new users the panegyric, the long journey across the desert that the kits often brings to newcomers, until smokers find their right/decent vaping device to succesfully replace smoking for it.

  • Titan_Saint

    I was a dual user for a year before I gave up the analogs for good. It's been almost 6.5 years. I smoked for about 14 years. I am so glad the ecigarettes came along earlier in my lifetime than later. I am under 40 years old and really glad I didn't end up smoking for 30 years or more.

  • Chris Brown

    So much FUD. I quit tobacco products, cigarettes and cigars, almost four years ago now. Still love my marlborough-flavor e-liquid and EGO batts and tanks. I've stocked up on the carts, coils, batts, and liquids before these bozo's make it so I can't. After that? I dunno, anything the government gets involved in is a disaster. And now lately, any mainstream news media. Truly a disgusting lot in this country. Tell them to GTFO and stay out of it.

  • DannoBoone

    I smoked for 45 years and was diagnosed with COPD 43 years into it. It would be impossible to remember
    all the times I attempted to quit, or become a "non-smoker". Even the 24mg e-cigarettes left me
    wanting....they just added to the cost of the addiction. One day a co-worker had me try a vape which
    contained 24mg juice. WOW! Somehow I knew vaping would work. It had the same throat hit and
    satisfaction as the cigarettes. So I went out and purchased everything needed, and never finished my
    last pack of cigarettes. That was three years ago. Knew I was "over the hump" when cigarette smoke
    became a smell I didn't want to be around.

    That same co-worker soon went to the 18mg juice and next thing I knew, he was back on cigarettes.
    The same happened with a daughter-in-law. Could it be that some of the failure rate is due to people
    attempting to reduce vape strength too soon?

  • The Taxciter

    Thank you, Amelia Howard.

  • John B

    I started vaping right about when the Ego-T first came out. Initially, I was a dual user, but within the first 6 months I had switched wholesale to vaping and have never looked back.

    My guess as to the reason that vaping fails to be "sticky" for some users is the social aspects to smoking. It's a different story with the underpowered and ineffective cigalikes that Ms. Amelia brings up in her article, but your typical vaper in the wild finds himself kicked outside to vape in the middle of a blizzard, or stuck in the carcinogen tank at the airport or similar, and the people in those places look at their more technologically blinded colleague with distaste themselves.

    There are other consequences to quitting smoking that some people may not like, such as actually being able to taste one's food (since quitting smoking, I can no longer enjoy indian food that is hotter than mild), as well.

    Is it made up for by not smelling like an ashtray, feeling better in general, and, on a far more superficial level, a better tasting way to intake the nicotine to which I'm addicted? Sure, for me. And I'm sure that it will be for the vast majority of other people as well, but it's not necessarily the sort of thing that will be an instant conversion.

  • Ernie Bates

    Smoked PAD for 43 years, got my first vape on June 1 2013, have Not had even a puff from a cig since. Tried vaping as a way to end my $200 per month cig habit due to retirement. Have decreased my nicotine consumption less than 4ml of 4% e-juice per day and recently went half a day without my vape with No Withdrawal Symptoms. I'd hate to see vaping go away due to the FDA Natzi's Thurst For Control And Addiction To Cigarette Taxes And The All Important MSA but I think I'll survive.

  • Layla Rose

    Very interesting. I never use other tobacco products, but know others who do. I hate cigarettes. I'm allergic to tobacco, it makes me sick. Immediately & profoundly, so I avoid it at all costs. I find vape more satisfying than I ever found tobacco cigs, so I suppose that's why I'm a devoted vaper. I'll never go back.

  • Bill Godshall

    Except that all of the vaping opponents who were invited to speak at the so-called US E-Cigarette Summit have been fully aware (since I've been informing them on a weekly basis since 2009) that vaping:
    - is at least 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking,
    - has helped several million cigarette smokers quit smoking,
    - is done almost exclusively by current smokers and by former smokers (who quit by vaping),
    - has NOT created daily nicotine dependence among never smokers, and
    - poses no risks to non vapers.

    The only reason that vaping opponents in the US have been deceitfully misrepresenting the scientific evidence (since 2009) is because that's precisely what they were paid to do by Big Pharma companies that market NRT products, and/or by Obama's DHHS (via FDA, NIH, CDC, etc.) to lobby for Obama's FDA's two different vapor bans (in 2009 and since 2011 via the Deeming Rule).

    Many/most of these highly paid vapor propagandists and prohibitionists had (prior to 2009) been paid by Big Pharma and/or by some DHHS agencies (but not FDA) during the Bush Administration to grossly misrepresent the similarly negligible risks and huge public health benefits of smokeless tobacco and to lobby for the Tobacco Control Act, which was negotiated and agreed to in 2003/04 by Philip Morris cigarette company, by Big Pharma financed CTFK's Matt Myers, and by GSK lobbyist Mitch Zeller) specifically to protect cigarettes and Big Pharma's NRT products from future market competition by smokeless tobacco products (and by other new smokefree alternatives).

    When pathological liars are invited to speak at conferences, nobody should be surprised when they make more false and misleading claims.

  • Skaz Kaz

    I really don't understand why everyone in the world does not get that the Ecig at large does not have the sweeping success it actually could have. The answer to it can be found in the mass number of the dual users currently: just take one sobering look, and you get it, and all the industry as well. Smoking is not just about nicotine satisfaction. You guys out there, blogging about vaping, you all at one point smoked ordinary tobacco cigarettes, me too. But I really don't need $ 120 mm not do I need science to answer why vaping does not "stick".
    Have you smokers actually ever smoked before???? So what's that taste like? And you got your answer to all of this big regurgitation up here!

  • Alan Selk

    "There is a disconnect between the tobacco research community and the vaping user-community"

    The opening statement from the piece is true enough, but then the assumption is that this is something new. It is not. The disconnect between tobacco users and tobacco research has been going for decades. You simply substituted vaping for tobacco (with the assumption that...... I don't know..... perhaps that vaping is not a form of tobacco use..... which is highly debatable and certainly should not be assumed). Technology has little to do with how the research has gone.

    We shall see where this goes, but starting out with bad directions doesn't bode well.

  • sbut01

    I like the part about early ecig users and "participation". When I started almost 10 years ago it was totally underground and internet only. No vape shops or expert advice. We were all just kind of feeling our way in the dark. We made mods out of flashlights and stuff from the hardware store and Radio Shak. I remember even seeing mods made from plumbing pipe. I remember how excited I was when my first "Big Chuck" arrived! BTW, I continued to smoke and vape for about 3 months before I made the jump. Never looked back. Haven't had an analog cig in almost ten years.

  • Phabala

    I smoked for over 40 years.
    I tried vaping around 2008 and it didn't stick, mainly because I was in a transitional period in my life and couldn't focus. I tried again in 2013 when I was more settled, and it stuck. The improved technology helped a little.

    I kept that last pack of cigarettes for a few months, down in the cellar with the canned goods, just as a back up, and once in a while to prove to myself that vaping really was better. Then I forgot about the pack. I found and threw away the remaining four or so cigs about a year later. I haven't wanted a cigarette since.

    Giving up an addiction is often compared to losing a spouse. Switching from smoking to vaping doesn't involve that kind of pain, but it is similar in that it's a complete change of lifestyle. Smoking is not a single habit, but thousands of little habits of action and habits of mind. Switching means trading a thousand little habits that may seem similar on the surface but are quite different at a deeper level.

    Possibly one of the most simple, obvious differences is that vaping has no beginning, middle or end. With cigs, you light a match, puff for a while, then stamp it out. There's a kind of satisfaction in those things that is lost in vaping. Those little things are missed for a while, and later are replaced by other little habits that are harder to name.

    My point is, switching involves brain work, not just in making the technology work, but in creating a whole new set of habits and life style. If you're hoping to just trade smoking for vaping, with no weighing or soul-searching, it won't work.

  • Bruce Nye

    Now we're getting serious about our own side of the fence. Thank you Amelia and Oliver!

    To be sure, we've decried the 'ever use' mantra until the tears have run dry. But we haven't been working on defining appropriate use profiles. This is a more complicated area for us, and the researchers, as there are differing usage patterns not only possible, but some are more likely. Then there's the whole transition aspect to vaping. I know relatively few vapers who haven't evolved their preferences over time as they gain experience and discover what for them is the 'perfect vape'. Being an industry that largely thrives on incestuous advertising (word of mouth, community invitation) we don't do a lot of market research to discover these transitional trends. Alas, good and necessary information lost except by retrospective survey - which isn't being credibly performed.

    Further on our path comes the motivation aspect. There are a few weak attempts to uncover some rough hewn information: e.g. use where I can't smoke, harm reduction, cessation, novelty. But we really aren't doing a deeper dive into these areas to find out what trends exist in initial product selection and motivation lead to satisfactory outcomes. In other words, which devices are preferred by dual-users, harm reducers, switchers? How does the initial device selection affect the realization of these goals? What effects does product availability, knowledge, and diversity play in the transition process? How does the belonging to a social sub-group affect the willingness to transition?

    Another aspect is the behavioral aspects. While Mike Russel's now ubiquitous phrase "People smoke for the nicotine, but die from the tar" is well known, few people understand that this is a very narrow and incomplete view of why people choose to smoke. Instead, the proliferation of the phrase has habituated Tobacco Control into the belief that nicotine is the only reason people smoke. To be sure, there is some long studied evidence that nicotine plays a role in habituation of smoking behaviors - but no one has explored alternative behavioral reinforcement aspects. This is a very important area to explore as part of vaping's success appears to be the ability to replace the behavioral aspect of smoking with a reduced harm alternative that isn't present with other products. Why this works should be one of the most important questions to be researched.

    These are but a few, additional, important aspects of knowledge that are necessary to effectively not only regulate but evolve vaping as a more widely acceptable product - with the end target being to become the preferred method to satisfy those in search of the behavioral satisfaction that heretofore only smoking combustibles could provide.

  • Skaz Kaz

    The question at the end: "how can we make vaping stickier for smokers?" really boggles my mind. Are you guys serious? The answer is as easy as to the primary math problem, asking: "what to add to make two into four?" I mean, have all these Vapers lost their brain cells or what. Again, the answer is really simple, the answer in fact is already in the question itself: "how to make vaping stickier for SMOKERS?"
    "Smokers" - duh!! Get it? And what do these smokers smoke???? Most definitely not blueberry tobacco cigarettes, or vanilla custard cigarettes or watermelon cigarettes. They smoke the SMOKE from burning tobacco. All those vapers stating everywhere in the world that they don't need that kind of flavor anymore are in complete denial - some even stating they are hating it, but it's basic human psychology: you always hate what you can't get, but really want it if you can get it. The multi-flavor kind of vape thing reduces smokers to become a bunch of kiddos, it seems. Vaping product should address the needs for adults. If I want blueberries, I go to the farmers market and eat them, don't wanna vape blueberries. With all those crappy and childish flavors, no wonder that some 87% vapers go out to find spaces to have a real Marlboro red, to get the real thing here, while they vape all that nasty sweet crap where they can't smoke there beloved and mos needed analog flavor. It's all about flavor - not nicotine, stupid.

  • charlie

    May be it's easier to understand smoking than to understand smokers because there are so many possible relationships. 2 1/2 years ago I see a coworker vaping. A couple of weeks later I'm vaping on a $15 refillable vape pen. My cigs go from 25 to 5 with no effort. That result is startling. I decided to keep that new status quo and concentrate on perfecting my vape, habits, hardware, liquids, etc. 6 weeks later I get a call that someone has died. Those moments, when you are reminded of your own mortality, are opportunities for life changes. I stopped smoking that day. It worked because vaping reduced the effort by may be 80% and I believed a relapse would only be back to 5 cigs a day, not 25. I started a brother of mine vaping a month later. He was a dual user for 10 months. He stopped smoking the day he got a call about someone who died. My conviction is, if you vape every day you will smoke less and if you never stop vaping eventually you'll stop smoking.

    Today I could smoke a ciigarette with zero risk of relapse. Cigarettes taste and smell terrible and vaping is a superior experience in every respect.

  • Ivan_2068

    I started vaping after my father died with a severe case of Emphysema around 2012, I already had some symptoms after 30 years smoking.

    During the first year I smoked a cigarette once in a while, since 2013 I'm absolutely smoke free, I use a 10 Mg. bottle of 24 tobacco flavor e-liquid a week, Even when don't plan to reduce the strength of the liquid, I'm 100% sure i won't need smoke products anymore.

  • Renato Sabo

    There are 2 reasons a lot of people want vaping restricted:
    1 - Pharma companies feel pressure that vaping is taking away they consumers; they probably have internal acurate polls regarding this issue;
    2 - Government still need smokers. The average tobacco tax is much desired by the government, and it dont wanna lose it, except maybe by a replacement taxation. Some studies find that smokers give much more money than what they cost as "social cost" or "state medical expenses". In a sum, tobacco taxation, heavy as it is, is a form of state opression against individual freedom to do what one wishes to do, on free will.

  • skoony

    IMHO I think it's about time that we are addicted to nicotine,
    assumption is put to bed.We are addicted to cigarette smoke.
    Peoples brand choice is the brand that gives them the blend of
    hazardous chemicals that satisfies there cravings. There is no proof
    nicotine is addicting. Find one source of it's addictive quality
    not in the form of its being in The form of cigarette smoke.

    There is but one single source suggesting nicotine's purported addictive
    qualities. A paper written in the 1800's by someone injecting various
    things to determine what was addictive and what amount that
    cause would cause death. This has never been verified. Ever
    wonder why tobacco with the nicotine removed is illegal to
    sell. We all know nicotine is addictive,right?
    Perhaps this is what they are hiding from us.

    This study in and of itself blows the theory of addicting new and younger
    users of this product on to cigarette smoking. It's inhaling the smoke
    not the nicotine.

  • bdoon

    I had not had a cigarette for 15 years when I tried ecigs. Ecigs are expensive and suck (or we suck?). I am now vaping. Unfortunately I got started with a device brand (Japanese) that break down easily, are very vlnerable to damage or I misplaced. I have been vaping less than 2 years and have had about 15 devices. I have about 8 devices (rhymes with Upti) at home which send the message: "atomiser" There is nothing to check or fix. Unfortunately I invested heavily in batteries and coils so I continue to buy this brand (animal in Australia) device. The Royal Med Society in Britain recommended vaping as the best alternative to smoking. I cannot endorse any of the idiot statements about vapers smoking cigs, etc. I vape CBD (along with a local mix without flavor).
    All this to say that vaping is costing me more than I expected due to having to buy devices about every 6 weeks. CBD not cheap either. I believe the vaping industry needs to "shake out" and break away from term "ecig". That term naturally makes the "controllers" think of tobacco use.

  • Islandswamp

    This was a great read.
    I first tried ecigs in 2011. I was always interested in them. Unfortunately the cigalikes just weren't very good and I was always a dual user. I saw vape pens and mods as confusing and ugly. I wanted a cigarette like experience or so I thought.
    Pod systems were what got me to move beyond the vuse cigs and i finally was able to abstain from cigarettes entirely. Eventually i moved on to nicer equipment like sub ohm tanks and vw mods.
    I think that beyond the ease of use and form factor issues that real cigs and cigalikes provide there is another issue you didn't touch on though. Nicotine isn't the only thing we were addicted to. Carbon monoxide lowers oxygen in your blood which probably makes the nicotine in cigarettes more additive. The free base nicotine in analogs is like the crack version of nicotine. And all the other chemicals can allegedly act as maoi inhibitors [or so I'm told]. Those nasty extras make cigarettes very "sticky". However with the right equipment and the desire to become smoke free it is quite possible to have a relatively easy time quitting smoking. Once you're past a few days or weeks without cigarettes you start to realize that vaping tastes better and doesn't stink. You have health benefits and save money. It's great.

  • Neal

    It's funny reading this. I have been vaping for about 4 years. I have seen several people try vaping and have it not work, I have seen others try vaping and end up quitting a 20 year old habit. I have seen proponents of vaping, and the fierce opposition to vaping. through it all, what becomes law is based on the current knowledge of smoking, not vaping.

    I didn't understand it at first, but hindsight is 20/20. The whole goal of the vaping community was to have vaping regarded as a separate entity disassociated with traditional cigarettes. What the general community has settled on, is that vaping is a sub-culture of smoking. Tobacco companies and the government wants to lump them together more for convenience . To regard it as a separate entity, it would take effort, research, and money in order to identify how it is to be regulated.

    As much as a vaping advocate as I am, I cannot talk to every decision maker. Like the article suggest, all research on the subject of vaping is flawed. Most vapers would agree, Vaping is not %100 safe. Neither is drinking water, breathing air, or eating food. There are slight dangers in anything we do. Unfortunately, there is no percentage number we can assign to show people just how much safer it is. It is agreed that vaping is a great deal safer than smoking, but anything less than %100 safe is viewed as a dangerous product in a layman's eye.

    What we should strive for, is not for a total freedom for vapers, but a wider segregation between vaping and smoking. This includes research, laws, and outlooks on the subjects. Once that hurdle has been passed, we can then address how vaping should be handled. As far as my personal opinion, under 18 age ban is acceptable, Online sales of equipment should be unhindered, and online sales of eliquid should be 18+ as well.

  • Melon

    As a dual user myself, it's kinda funny reading this. I smoke clove cigarettes, and that's what I mainly missed on vape. But another reason I'm still smoking is, that as a regular Indonesian, vaping is quite expensive.
    In Jakarta, a vape starter kit like a mod-atomizer-battery-charger package would cost around 80-100$. And them, there's e juices. Problem is, our wage is around 300$. To start vaping, I'd need 1/3 of my monthly payment while a pack of cigarette only cost me 1$.
    So when I can't afford 10$ for a bottle of e juice, I'd smoke.
    What about the "real" starter kits, like the all-in-one systems? Of course they're cheaper. But they need coil heads, which is rare here. There's more vape store selling clone rdas than sub-ohm tanks and their coil heads.
    That aside, from what I've seen, there's many people trying vape today than there's a year ago. But then again, many of them are just people who follow the trend.

  • Paul Muad'Dib

    How many people have died so far from using ecigs?

  • Shannon

    The journey from smoker to vaper for me was immediate and fairly easy. I do remember the first week was a struggle and day 4 I had to repeatedly talk myself out going to buy smokes. By the next week I was over it and by two weeks in I could sit in a car with someone smoking (without without my vape mind you) and not have a craving.

    I had no plan other than getting off cigarettes. I opringinally didn't even have a plan to step down my nicotine. When I started doing that I stepped down when I felt my juice consumption had leveled out or dropped. I stayed at 3mg for a long time because I was terrified to try zero perhaps brainwashed by the difficulty of quitting cigarettes that nicotine was so very addictive. I think now that nicotine may be much like alcohol and be more addictive to some people than others but is definitely less addictive alone than with other substances MAOIs come to mind. When I finally did step down to zero it wasn't difficult at all and after about 6 weeks at zero I noticed I didn't use my vape regularly, then I put it down altogether for a few years now I use it semi regularly with zero nicotine.

    That brings up another point. What about the people who vaped, got to zero nicotine and discontinued use? Where are they in these studies? Some people pick these up with a plan to put them down and still others end up putting them down in many cases without going back to smoking without even planning to.