EY analysis reveals rapidly growing e-cigarette market


The e-cigarette market is experiencing strong growth, driven by rising consumer demand and industry innovation. It is a dynamic market with consumer preferences changing from country to country, according to a new report from EY.

  • Number of users has almost doubled over the past two years
  • Growth driven by perception of relative health benefits compared to combustible cigarettes’
  • Consumers shift away from tobacco flavours, and prefer lower strength nicotine e-liquids

The analysis and conclusions from the report, ‘E-cigarettes: an emerging category’ draw upon comprehensive surveys from seven diverse markets: Italy, France, Germany, Poland, U.K. Russia and South Korea.

Across these markets the number of e-cigarette users grew from an estimated 2.8 million in 2013 to 5.1 million in 2015, an increase of 86%. In some markets, such as the UK, e-cigarette users represent nearly one fifth of those that use combustible tobacco products.  

Growth is being driven by a range of factors, one of which is consumer perception about the relative benefits of using e-cigarettes, (rather than combustible cigarettes). An important driver for usage is that e-cigarettes are viewed by those surveyed as ‘less harmful’ than combustible cigarettes’. This is according to one-in-two (51%) of regular users of e-cigarettes. A similar proportion (49%), cite that they ‘help[s] me to reduce smoking’. 

The price of combustible cigarettes also appears to be influencing e-cigarette usage. Countries with higher cigarette prices tend to have higher e-cigarette penetration. This finding corroborates independent survey evidence - from bodies such as the UK’s Department of Health - that the difference in price between combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes is a factor in driving consumption.

There is a growing trend towards the use of ‘modular’ devices that allow for greater customisation. They’ve overtaken rechargeable devices as the most commonly used in most markets. Modulars are chosen by almost two-thirds of all users (62%), compared to a third (35%) of users, who use rechargeable e-cigarettes. The least popular device is disposables. Over one-in-ten (13%) consumers use more than one type of device.

Consumer demand is driving the growth in the variety of flavours and nicotine levels. In every market the total of users preferring one of either, a botanical or fruit flavour, outweighs the number of users that prefer tobacco flavours.  Use of tobacco flavours is most common in France, (34%) and it is least popular in South Korea (20%). 

Interestingly, three quarters of consumers (73%) are using lower strength nicotine e-liquids and 16% of consumers are now using nicotine-free e-liquids.  Italy has the highest consumption of nicotine-free e-liquids, at 23%, while Poland has the lowest at 10%. 

In 2015, across the seven markets surveyed, 79% of e-cigarette users purchased their devices at physical retail stores, with the most common being specialist e-cigarette stores. Retail stores were also the main purchase channel for refills.

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