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1% of French Population Switches to Vapes!

A recent French study has found that 1% of the French population has quit smoking in favor of using electronic cigarettes (and Jacques Le Houezec has provided a translation into English).

Carl Phillips, Science Director of CASAA (the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association) has an interesting discussion of the results on his THR (Tobacco Harm Reduction) blog, followed up with comments and discussion by Le Houezec, Chris Price, and Phillips.

The design of the study (done by the Observatoire Français des Drogues et des Toxicomanies [French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction]) was commendable: slightly over 2000 French people were cold-called, providing a random cross section of the population. "The... telephone survey... was conducted between 12 and 18 November 2013 among a representative sample of 2,052 individuals aged 15 to 75 years, from the metropolitan population.... A land-line telephone data base... was randomly generated." (Le Houezec's translation) This means that there was no self-selection of respondents, and therefore the study did not comprise a subset with a special interest in the subject matter, for example, smokers, vapers, ex-smokers, or would-be quitters. The downside of this design feature is that the size of the subject group is small for each percentage point.

Phillips laments that the experimental group could not have been at least 5000, but still concludes that the results provide a viable overview. The study found a high level of "mixed use" or "dual use", that is vapers who also continue to smoke. Does this reflect a transitional phase, or a plan to continue using both (a practice much reviled by smoking ban proponents). Says Phillips: "A time trend... for the number using both products vs. switching entirely would tell us a lot more about how much of the dual use is a transition to switching and how much is long-term partial replacement." Nonetheless: "Exclusive electronic cigarette users, i.e those who do not currently use tobacco, represented 1.3% [0.8-1.8] of the surveyed sample, and the vast majority (81%) used them daily." (Le Houezec's translation)

 The 1% finding – one percent of the entire French population quitting entirely through vaping – is obviously the most spectacular result of the study, and Chris Price gives a quick ball-park calculation to the effect that this statistic would translate to about 5.5 – 6% of French smokers. Given the modest size of the experimental population, these numbers will need to be backed up by further study. But they provide an excellent basis for optimism, and can unquestionably be a part of political campaigns to design regulations that will support vapers in their efforts. The results also show a significant preference for tank systems, second generation rechargeables, among experienced vapers and those who vape exclusively.

"Finally, the market for disposable electronic cigarettes appears to be very small: only 4% of those who had used electronic cigarettes in the last month used these type of products, which are sold mostly for trial purposes, rather than of loyalty.

Indeed, they are easy to use, similar to conventional cigarettes and allow to try the product at a low cost. It is likely that with the increase in electronic cigarettes use, disposables have experienced a decline in their market share." (Le Houezec's translation) This is a trend that has also been noted among analysts who monitor e-cig stock market activity.

Hopefully this will lead to a more positive attitude toward rechargeables in the regulatory community.