The US faces significant upcoming changes to the otherwise under-regulated vape industry. Federal agencies, like the FDA, hope to crack down on concerns like underage sale and use of the smoking cessation tech. Major manufacturers, such as Juul Labs, began campaigns and funding to help combat the unintended consequences of lax regulation and easy availability of their products to date.
Around the world, and even in the US still, however, the vape industry shows no signs of decline. An astounding 95% of all vape products and tech come from a single city in China to supply the world’s vaping boom. Legislative bodies across the globe have to shoehorn or otherwise cobble together vape regulations to keep up with demand. Much of the science of a vape’s effects on the body is still up in the air, too. Until the concrete longitudinal study is done, local and state laws all over the world are disparate at best to try and keep up with the vape craze.
Some governments have outright banned vaping in their countries. A few have begun drafting laws to curb vaping, such as indoors or in particular spaces like schools. Still, many other countries are up against such rampant industry growth that they struggle to effectively legislate against it. Here, we explore some of the reported statistics of vape populations around the world, and relevant laws that affect our global user base.
The United States is, without a doubt, the largest and fastest growing vape market in the world. This is largely thanks to the simplicity and ubiquitous presence of products like the Juul. It is also due to a lack of legislation to monitor the advertising and sale of these products to minors. Complications and pitfalls aside, however, the industry still caters explicitly to adults who want to quit smoking.
In the US alone, vaping has reached an astronomical 9 million adults. That is, compared to the 37+ million smokers, not an outrageous number. It has been steadily increasing over the last few years, though. And approaching one-third of the total number of US smokers is certainly something the tobacco industry should (and does) recognize as a sign of changing demographics.
Authorities measure vape user and cigarette smoker statistics independently of each other. However, the classification and legislation of vape products in the US conflate the two products. All vape products (which are considered tobacco products) must adhere to the same manufacturing, advertising, and labeling standards as tobacco products per the FDA’s ‘Deeming Rule.’
Vape labeling requirements have garnered special attention and specification of late. Vape products that contain nicotine now require an explicit label indicating the addictive nature of nicotine. The FDA requires these changes to vape products, which previously enjoyed a mostly unregulated life as consumer goods. One major concern for the FDA to enforce these new regulations is the rise of teens using vapes in the US.
In 2016, the US Surgeon General’s Report offered the first compiled evidence of adolescent vape use. Among the findings, 15% of teens reported using vapes in 2015, which incited much of the concern from federal regulatory bodies. Since then, the FDA has cracked down on vape manufacturers and increased fines for retailers caught selling to underage users.
Local legislators in areas like California, New York, and states across the midwest have also enacted regulations to combat teen vaping. Some locales raised the legal vape age to 21 to match their smoking age, and others have banned flavored vape juices to keep products from appealing to children. Much like the cigarette trend of the 1960s, however, the rise of vape use is attributed, at least in part, to getting a new generation of users hooked on a product.
Nevertheless, vape companies fervently claim and defend that their products are for adults who want to quit smoking cigarettes. Concerned parties have felt the impact around the world, and other international markets are beginning to take notice of their own e-cigarette demographics.
The most recent statistics in Canada show vaping is not yet as popular as in the US. Canada estimated 3.9 million vape users in 2015, and we were unable to find anything more recent. However, it stands to reason that Canada’s vape industry has grown alongside other countries that are welcoming the manufacture and sale of electronic cigarettes and tank mods.
Canada has its own vape association to help establish regulatory practices and legislative protections for both companies and consumers. The Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) has been working closely with the American Vaping Association (AVA) to establish trade practices, learn from one another how to best manage this booming industry, and smooth out legal obstacles across borders.
Canada’s legislation on e-cigarettes looks much like that of the US. Eighteen is the legal purchase age, with the provision that provinces can set their own, higher minimum ages as well. Legislators have banned similar advertising efforts (no advertising to persons under 18, and not to display the act as a ‘sexy’ or ‘fun’ lifestyle choice except within magazines explicitly targeted to adults).
Similar labeling requirements are in effect, as well. E-cigarette and nicotine juice manufacturers must label their products to display their addictive nature and potential health risks. Ingredients, like vitamins and caffeine, are also prohibited under Canada’s law. The legislation, called Bill S-5, is an ongoing collaboration between CVA and Canada’s Ministry of Health. Other countries around the world have more or less extreme legal standing on vapes. Not all countries have struck a balance to allow this industry its space in the consumer market.
CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA
Local news outlets in Mexico City report up to 50% e-cigarette consumption. Central America is fairly new to the ENDS market, and thus has only recently begun to tackle legislation that addresses the recent rise of use. We were unable to find reliable sources on statistics of use in other Central and South American countries. Though, a number of countries in South America, such as Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina have banned vaping altogether. Other South American countries have absent or unclear legislation about vaping.
The production, sale, trade, and promotion of all vape products are federally banned in Mexico. The act of vaping, however, is not illegal. Tourists and other folks who vape must adhere to local and federal legislation similar to Mexico’s smoking laws. Outright, however, vaping itself is legal – but the industry is disallowed from producing or selling in the country. Most products come to Mexico through the US.
Oddly, vape legislation in Mexico is tied to its attempts to curb the sale of candy cigarettes, opposed to actual tobacco products. Speculation is that the tobacco industry has bottlenecked vape laws to keep their monopoly strong in that country.
Asia is an interesting case for the vape industry. Roughly 95% of all vaping hardware is produced in a single city in China. E-cig manufacturing plants for major brands and independent companies alike make up the small Guangdong city of Shenzhen. With such a concentrated and localized production hub, one might think China’s vape market is booming. However, that is far from the case.
Despite some 300+ million smokers in China, a number of studies of the past years show that the population is wary of the tobacco counterparts, though the attitude is shifting among millennials. E-cigarette legislation is fairly lax in China, yet much of the population believes them to be only marginally better than cigarettes, if at all. Numbers for vape users in other Asian countries are absent, given that – despite China being the production hub (or perhaps because of it) – most Asian countries have banned vaping altogether.
Vaping is expressly banned in Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Dubai, Cambodia, and in many Indian states. Some consequences of vaping in these countries are harsh, such as up to 10 years in prison in Thailand. That list leaves few countries on the Asian continent that allow vaping.
In Japan, nicotine e-juice is considered an unlicensed medical product and is prohibited. Countries in the Middle East are far more open to the vape industry. The Middle East carries mostly lax laws and bustling retail industry. Ironically, the east is not nearly as open to the concept of vaping, nor as accepting of the industry, as the west. On the Eurasian continent, the further west traveled, the more likely it is that people vape and that there are vape product shops.
Across the United Kingdom, about 4% of the total adult population use vapes or e-cigarettes. Within England, Scotland, and Wales, about 2.5+ million adults are reportedly regular users (once a day, at least). Similar to United States statistics, England has reportedly seen a decline in the number of smokers since the rise of the vape market. Also similar to the US, however, is the tenuous relationship major vape companies have with legislators.
All vape juice and e-cigarette cartridges have to adhere to particular and rigid standards in the UK. Current legislation specifies that no nicotine cartridge or vape juice can contain more than 20mg of nicotine. Juul, for example, offers 5% nicotine per 0.7mL pod (by weight). This translates to about 50mg of nicotine.
While the company has made strides to offer 3% versions of their patented Juulpods, their volume still oversteps the 20mg or less UK requirement. To that end, Juul recently began offering UK exclusive products with 1.7% (20mg) nicotine to meet requirements. Other European countries do not have similarly stringent laws.
Collectively, countries across the European Union reported in 2016 that about 15% of their total population are vape users (regularly, daily). Despite rise in users (up from about 11% in 2014), Europeans are also reportedly more concerned about the health effects of vapes than in previous years. In 2014, around half of the European population saw e-cigarettes are harmful. Compare that to only about a quarter of folks in 2012. Nevertheless, with only a few exceptions, the EU widely accepts vaping similarly to smoking in terms of social acceptability and legislation.
Generally, vape devices and liquids are available similarly to cigarettes. They also follow the same legislation and ordinance as tobacco products in most EU countries. Notable exceptions are Norway and Turkey.
In Norway, a doctor’s note or prescription may be required to prove a device is to help quit smoking. Without proper documentation, local authorities or customs agents may confiscate vape and e-cigarette products. The sale of e-cigs and nicotine liquids is expressly prohibited in Turkey. Despite laws, however, people on vacation in Turkey have reported being able to purchase these products without issue in tourist destinations.
OCEANIA & AFRICA
We were unable to track down any reasonable statistics on the populations of these areas and vape use. This is likely due to the scattered, disjointed laws and incomplete research on vaping populations in both Oceanic and African countries.
Aside from Australia, countries in the south Pacific predominantly allow vaping with minimal restriction or typical legislation akin to their tobacco laws. Australia, however, prohibits the sale of nicotine-containing e-liquids. Their vape laws vary from state to state. Overall the country is confusing and difficult to navigate for vape users.
Africa’s various states, provinces, and locales also have disparate laws for vaping. Uganda, for example, completely banned vaping in 2016. In other developing areas, like Kenya and Ghana, vaping follows the same laws as cigarette smoking. More densely populated and traveled countries, like Egypt and South Africa, have restrictions that warrant asking or researching before traveling.
On a global scale, vaping is on the rise. More countries face inclusive or refined laws to include an increased awareness of their vaping populaces. Major brands have gone international in recent years. The world should be ready to adjust to this expansive trend, and the opportunity to quit smoking that comes with its rise.
More people are taking up the habit, overall, and the industry is developing professional advocacy groups and legislative consultants worldwide. Financial predictions show no sign of the vape market slowing down – quite the contrary, in fact. As the industry grows, so too will the statistical body of work. Researchers, census groups, and interested parties will likely collect this information more frequently and on a larger scale as we continue to see the rise of the vape.