New research by Mintel has revealed that the value of e-cigarettes has tapered off - although the claim has been challenged by a high-profile retailer who specialises in the category.
The market research company said e-cigarettes grew 300% in 2013, 4% in 2014, 8% in 2015 and 6% last year when the market reached £230m.
But consumer usage of e-cigarettes had remained static at 17% since 2014, it added.
Pinda Cheema, co-owner of Malcolm’s Stores, with two stores in Coventry and one in Birmingham, instead painted a picture of a dynamic market which would continue to grow.
He said customers were demanding innovation, all the accessories and different flavours and formats, and some were using e-cigarettes during the week but traditional cigarettes at weekend with a beer.
“The first thing people ask now is whether we’ve got accessories. Have we got the glass tanks and the atomisers? When we say we have they buy everything from us,” Pinda said.
Roshida Khanom, senior beauty & personal care analyst at Mintel, said the lack of licensed products positioned as smoking cessation methods was hampering the sector and, as a result, the market was not seeing as many new users.
“Our research shows that the majority of consumers don’t know how e-cigarettes work and that they would like to see more NHS regulation. Those who are using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method are doing so with little in the way of official guidance, whether from the market or the NHS.”
Mintel said 30% of Britons smoke regular cigarettes today compared with 33% in 2014. The number of smokers or ex-smokers using e-cigarettes to kick smoking has fallen from 69% in 2014 to 62% in 2016, although it remained the most popular smoking cessation method.
Pinda said many customers wanted an easy solution that was not too complicated to help them come off cigarettes. Cigarette sales were going back up and neither sector was affecting the other. “Vaping is a whole different market,” he said.
He described vaping as a lifestyle: “People take photos of the bottles and get tattoos to replicate it.
“Twenty pounds to spend on a tin of vaping juice is nothing to most people. A gentleman came in the other day and bought a Nasty Juice in a new slim kit and a regular kit for work – that’s £120.”
He said people were pulling away from vaping shops. “They want to go somewhere they can get a liquid that’s regulated, made in the UK and that they know is good quality.
“It’s a big market and it will get bigger and as the government regulates it more it will help the independents more,” he said.