Nobody, and no business, can have been unaffected by the global pandemic, either directly or as a consequence of the various official measures taken to combat the spread of the virus. In many instances, and in many ways, it may be too early to tell yet what the long-term effects will be. Short-term effects, though, have been many and varied and have provided clues to what may transpire.
ECigIntelligence will be drawing together much of the evidence for an in-depth examination of what is a complex and multi-faceted issue. Meanwhile, certain trends are clear.
In the e-cigarette industry, as in so many other spheres of life, the pandemic has heightened already existing change in favour of the rich and powerful at the expense of the less well-off.
Lockdown measures everywhere have tended to impact more heavily on smaller businesses.
While specialist, mostly independent, stores have been forced to close, supermarkets and general retailers have remained open. This has inevitably caused a market shift away from smaller manufacturers and towards mass-market producers.
That in turn has provided an opportunity for big tobacco companies to promote their vapour products. And with many vapers shifting their custom to the stores that stayed open, the post-lockdown question is how many will return to purchasing their e-cigs and e-liquids from small vape shops – those specialists, that is, that have managed to survive.
And with that comes the question of how far open-system e-cigarettes will recover from nearly two years (so far) of forced market pressure towards easy-to-buy, easy-to-use closed systems.
Have the specialists and hobbyists had their day, and will the e-cigarette business become more and more the realm of the very tobacco industry it arose originally in opposition to? Or will a post-pandemic world rediscover the pleasures of independent thinking? Will smaller brands bounce back, becoming trendy again? Will vapers be lured back to customisation or will convenience trump it? How will these shifts be affected by regulation, and how will they differ between different markets?
Ultimately, and globally, how will the pandemic be seen to have affected the long-term decline in smoking, and how far will vaping be seen to have affected or profited from that?
All these questions remain to be answered. The only thing we can be sure of is that the answers will be more complicated than they look from here.
– Aidan Semmens ECigIntelligence staff
Photo: Wikimedia Commons