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My response to SkyCig’s false ‘equivalency’ claims

About the author
Oliver Kershaw

Oliver Kershaw

Founder of and co-founder of

In my opinion, e-cigarette companies have no business making equivalency claims between their products and cigarettes. Doing so is fundamentally misleading, and we've banned any company that wishes to be part of ECF from doing so since 2008.

Why is this misleading?

It is completely obvious that vapers don't use e-cigarettes as they do cigarettes. There are multiple reasons that this is the case:

1. Nicotine absorption is less efficient than from cigarette smoke, so vapers need to vape more

2. E-cigs do not burn out after 15 puffs, so the behavioral characteristics are fundamentally different

3. E-cigs do not provide the same level of negative sensory feedback. I.e. toxins - chain smoking will make many people feel ill, whereas vaping won't in the same way. So people are taking more vape puffs in the real world than they take cigarette puffs.

In other words, then, the only way to justify equivalency claims is by conducting research in which users use the products in real life and express satisfaction that X number of e-cigs/cartridges has replaced x number of cigarettes.

We sort of have an approximation of that data of ECF, incidentally, since polls repeatedly come back suggesting the average consumption of e-liquid to be about 3mls daily. Most 'cigalikes' contain about 1 ml of e-liquid, but no company should go out with this claim as marketing.

I hadn't actually seen any e-cigarette companies trying to justify their equivalency claims, until I came across a Skycig on twitter claiming that they were giving the equivalency statements 'becuase their customers requested it'. Now this may be true, as far as it goes, because what customer wouldn't want to know the equivalency? But they then linked to this blog post explaining how they came up with their equivalency statement, and it made my blood boil:

I've left a comment which they've not yet let out of moderation, and it explains why this statement is highly misleading.

And here we see a prime example of the dangers of generalising to the real world from a laboratory. This is a danger all academics are acutely aware of, and I’m sure if Lynne Dawkins were to respond to this piece she would say exactly the same thing. The study you refer to does not, in any way, justify you using the findings to bolster your marketing message. The study took a small sample and subjected them to a controlled situation. The aim was simply to discern the specific academic question relating to the efficiency of nicotine delivery and user satisfaction (using multiples measures), not the question of how the product is actually used in daily real-life. As the commenter above has noted, your claims do not fit with the experience of numerous vapers who find that in order to fully transition from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, much larger quantities of e-liquid must be consumed. Furthermore, using the nicotine quantities from a cigarette packet is extremely disingenuous, as the latest research suggests that these estimates (despite being government mandated) are wildly inaccurate. You do not have government regulations to hide behind regarding your equivalence claims and, as I’ve shown, you have no evidence to make these claims. I would suggest, therefore, that you remove these claims immediately as you are currently misleading your customers. As I mentioned to you on Twitter – you are now past the date of guilty knowledge.

I will finish this blog by saying that the only data that should be printed on marketing or packaging that gives performance indication should be the number of puffs a device is rated for - but even this is difficult, because vapers puff differently - although I'm sure an average could be worked out. I'm willing to entertain the idea that well conducted research could be carried out that does actually come back with an accurate equivalency figure, but for some reason I don't think cigalike manufacturers would be printing this on their products.

[update] a nice youtube vid by a UK vendor on the difference in puff characteristics between smoking and vaping:

[Update 2] Skycig appear to have removed this blog from their site since this blog was published. Good. Now I hope they take the extra step and remove these claims from their products and advertising materials.

[Update 3] I've now heard that Skycig appear to have removed these claims from their latest inventory currently being shipped out. I hope now that in answer to 'how many cigarettes are your products equivalent to?' Skycig publish the honest answer which is "we cannot tell you this, there is no reliable information on how vapers use our product".