As part of its efforts to combat tobacco-related diseases, Eurispes has recently conducted a study at the European level about the role of new instruments in overcoming tobacco combustion, which is the leading cause of tobacco-related diseases. Eurispes study focuses on e-cigarette consumption in the EU, analysing the different public health orientations and exploring the employment and sales chain aspects of the vaping industry in 14 European countries. The results reveal a varied landscape, characterised by different levels of market development.
Following a descriptive quantitative approach, the data was obtained from primary international and national studies and by empirical research using a questionnaire in the second half of 2021. For the questionnaire, an open-question design was distributed via e-mail among national vaping business associations, manufacturers and retailers.
Data could be collected for the following markets: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lituania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom and analysed employing descriptive statistics. While Pearson’s r as correlation coefficient was used to detect a correlation between smoking and vaping numbers, the limitation of this method as a coefficient of solely linear correlations has to be acknowledged.
Concerning the smokers and e-cigarette users prevalence, Eurispes study reveals how the number of e-cigarette consumers (so-called vapers) is quite heterogeneous throughout the examined markets. While the United Kingdom shows a rather significant number of vapers with 6%, in countries like Romania, vaping is less widespread by user numbers of 1,5%. The data suggests 6 million vapers in 11 of the 14 markets presented in this study.
The highest shares of vapers in the studied markets are found in Lithuania with a percentage of 11.5 among the adult population and Ireland as well as the aforementioned United Kingdom with a share of 6.7% vapers each and followed by France with a vaping prevalence of 5.8% within the population aged 18 and older. The regular use of e-cigarettes is less common in Latvia, Poland, Romania and Spain, where vapers numbers remain between 1.1% and 1.9%.
According to the collected data, the adult population of the countries analysed exceeded 335 million in 2020. In these countries, the number of smokers is 82 million (24%of the adult population). More than 656,000 annual deaths from tobacco-related diseases are reported, and the total cost to national health systems exceeds €115 billion per year.
Latvia, Greece and Romania show the highest smoking rates by more than one third smokers in adult population. The lowest smoking numbers are found in Denmark with 16% and the United Kingdom leading in tobacco prevention with a smokers’ percentage of 12.8 among the grown-up population.
Vaping numbers show a slight negative correlation to smoking numbers (Perason’s r (14) = − 0.31) indicating that a more prevalent use of e-cigarettes might correspond to decreasing smoking rates.
By analysing the distribution channels and workforce figures, 1,600 e-cigarette production companies could be identified in 11 of the surveyed countries (Distribution channels and workforce figures could not be validated for the markets of Belgium, Latvia and Poland). Almost all of them are small and medium-sized enterprises. In addition, almost 600 companies operate in import and distribution. There are more than 12,000 specialized shops in the retail sector, but e-cigarette products are also available in almost 150,000 general stores.
Shares of online-only shops range from 10% in Germany to 40% in the Netherlands and Ireland. Northern and western European countries tend to show a higher level of e-cigarette usage with greater market volumes and higher employment numbers in the sector.
It is particularly relevant to highlight the volume of the workforce directly employed by the e-cigarette industry, amounting to 77,000 workforce units.
While the vaping market is growing in Europe, the same combustion tobacco products regulation is often applied to vaping products, making it impossible to inform users about the health risk reduction potential of these new devices.
The authorities of many EU Countries still show a substantial closure towards using electronic cigarettes as a risk reduction instrument, often applying the same taxes to these new devices as to other traditional products involving combustion. In contrast, some other countries, like the UK, show a more open approach towards these new devices, with a promising return in terms of public health.