E-Cigs Stub Out Growth of Smoking Cessation Products

CHICAGO – As American smokers feel more pressure to quit the habit, many of them are now turning to electronic cigarettes as a means to do so, according to new research from Mintel. As a result, sales of smoking cessation products are suffering.

Thirty-four percent of U.S. smokers who quit or are interested in quitting think e-cigarettes are an effective way to do so, Mintel found. This puts e-cigarettes at No. 2, just barely, behind nicotine patches (35 percent) in terms of perceived effectiveness.

From 2012 to 2014, sales of e-cigarettes increased from $283 million to $537 million, while the smoking cessation segment only grew 10 percent, or $95 million, between 2008 and 2013. Between 2012 and 2013, the smoking cessation segment actually decreased by 1.7 percent, and Mintel forecasts growth of just $7 million between 2013 and 2018.

Additionally, 2013 e-cigarette sales put the product on par with smoking cessation gum, the largest segment of the smoking cessation market, according to Mintel.

"The sharp falloff in growth of the smoking cessation category between 2012 and 2013, and the forecasted decline over the next five years are largely due to the explosive popularity of e-cigarettes," stated Molly Maier, category manager of health, household, beauty and personal care at Mintel.

"Despite the fact that these products are not an FDA-approved means of quitting smoking, and thus are not included in the sales of the rest of the category, many smokers who would otherwise use NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) products, such as gum, tablets, patches and sprays, are now looking to e-cigarettes as a viable alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and for controlling and ultimately reducing their nicotine cravings," Maier continued.

Hispanic consumers show a higher-than-average tendency to smoke e-cigarettes and tend to smoke them more regularly, with 32 percent saying they have tried them, compared to an average of 25 percent. Millennials are also much more inclined to use and trust e-cigarettes, with 63 percent of those aged 25 to 34 indicating they feel e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit smoking — the highest-percentage response across all age groups and cessation products.

Men also are more likely to use e-cigarettes, with 30 percent having tried them as opposed to just 21 percent of women.

"Those who have either successfully quit smoking or are trying to quit smoking are more likely than current smokers to have tried e-cigarettes, pointing to the role these products play as a cessation aid," Maier said. "Yet unlike traditional smoking cessation products, e-cigarettes are not designed specifically to help a smoker reduce the amount of nicotine she/he consumes, but rather replace the act of smoking traditional cigarettes with vapor-based nicotine delivery devices. High nicotine availability and an experience that closely resembles the act of smoking are also the primary reasons why smokers find e-cigarettes more appealing than smoking cessation products."

Still, when it comes to methods of quitting, most smokers prefer the old-school approach of using no smoking cessation products at all. Seventy-six percent of those interested in quitting said they prefer to gradually reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke, while 65 percent would or have gone cold turkey, and 70 percent say they would or have tried exercising to curb their addiction.

"With tough competition from e-cigarettes and prescription anti-smoking products, the OTC [over the counter] smoking cessation market has struggled to grow faster than inflation and will continue to do so in the future," Maier concluded. "As consumers weigh all their options when thinking about quitting smoking, many will compare costs and some will choose the easiest, rather than the healthiest option."

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