Wider availability of vapes will reduce cigarette sales – study

Posted on May 15, 2023 By Colin

SELLING VAPES LEGALLY to adult smokers from convenience stores reduces the sale of deadly cigarettes according to new research from Canada.

The Canadian study examined the sale of cigarettes after the introduction of Juul to the market in 2018, using data from 600 convenience stores. Juul is a popular pod vape which has a high success rate as a quitting aid. One study found that 38% of Juul users had quit smoking after 6 months.

The Canadian study found that cigarette sales from the convenience stores fell by 1.65% per month over the first few months. Over 6 months, the decline in cigarette sales was around 10% overall. This would be expected to increase further over time. The authors concluded

“E-cigarette use could contribute to a potentially large public health impact if abstinence from smoking is maintained long-term”

Switching to vaping was not actively encouraged in Canada at the time. If vaping was promoted, as in the UK and New Zealand, it may accelerate the displacement of cigarettes even faster. A wider range of products would also increase uptake as different products are needed for different users.

Another study from the US found that cigarette sales from retail outlets declined more quickly as e-cigarette sales increased. It found that eery additional e-cigarette sold was accompanied by a reduction in cigarette sales of 1.4 packs. It concluded that e-cigarettes act as a general substitute for cigarettes

Where should vapes be sold?

These studies demonstrate the benefit of making vapes available as a substitute for smoking wherever tobacco is sold, such as at convenience stores, tobacconists, service stations and supermarkets

If smokers are exposed to vapes where they buy their smokes, many will choose to switch to the far safer alternative.

It makes no sense that vapes are harder to access legally than cigarettes in Australia. Cigarettes are sold at over 20,000 outlets in Australia, without any restrictions, except proof of age. Vapes are a far safer alternative and should be available at least as widely.

Vapes should also be available from vape shops which provide expert support and advice for users. Pharmacies could also sell these products.

What about underage sales?

Australia's harsh restrictions on vaping have created a booming black market. There are many rogue convenience stores and tobacconists selling illegal and dodgy products to adults and children. Further prohibition will not stop illegal sales but will only make it worse.

The only way forward is to replace the black market with a legal regulated one. A Roy Morgan survey found that 79% of respondents would be more likely to purchase legal regulated vape products from licensed retailers than from the black market. The black market would become less profitable and be largely replaced.

Under a regulated model, retail outlets would be licensed to sell cigarettes and vapes. Any age-of-sale breaches would result in severe penalties and loss of the lucrative licence to sell these products.

Vapes are here to stay

The horse has well and truly bolted. Do we want vaping regulated by Al Capone selling dodgy products to kids or licensed retailers selling quality products with strict age verification?

A legal market will also generate taxation, stimulate the economy and reduce criminal activity.

I know which I prefer.


Xu Y. The impact of JUUL market entry on cigarette sales: evidence from a major chain retailer in Canada. Harm Reduction Journal 2023

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