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The mode of diffusion of the questionnaire and the target panel are likely to have introduced a bias in the sampling of respondents, selecting probably more advanced (or experienced) users from forums than normal. Nevertheless, the snapshot that is shown with this preliminary survey (PDF) provides highly relevant information on vapers’ behaviors that remain to be explored in further surveys.

Over the 770 respondent, 98% were daily users and 92% were using either a Mechanical mod or an advanced hardware (second or third generation offering variable wattage, VW, and/or voltage, VV, features) the latter being the most representative (626 participants). Only few respondents declared using an eGo (6%) or a closed system (2%).

Ex-smokers represent 6 out of 7 participants of this survey

The 35-55 year olds represented more than one half of the respondents and about two third were males (73%). Most of them could be considered experienced or advanced users with a regular use of an e-cigarette for two years or more. Finally, more than 6 out of 7 participants were ex-smokers; dual users were only 7% and used an e-cigarette to either reduce their smoking (6%) or to vape where smoking is forbidden (1%).

Age groups (Source: ECigIntelligence)
Age groups (Source: ECigIntelligence)

When questioned about their reasons to turn to vaping, the most common answers were to quit smoking (38%) or to sustain a high physiological demand for nicotine after complete smoking cessation (32%). A vast majority of users were motivated by the positive feedback from relatives (54%) to purchase their first e-cigarette. Only few entered the e-cig world with a free sample (2%) or a gift from friends (6%).

Criteria for selecting a vaping device (Source ECigIntelligence)
Criteria for selecting a vaping device (Source: ECigIntelligence)

Ego users seem to be motivated by financial aspects of this device and its simplicity of use. They do not attach so much importance to the appearance, the rendering of flavors and customization features. On the opposite, more advanced vapers using Mecas or more conventional Mods see in their hardware the many possibilities for customization and for a wide range of flavors.

E-juices consumption

eliquid-bottles-lineE-liquid selection is largely motivated by the taste and in a much lesser extent by the thickness of the vapor it produces or the design of its packaging, even if those last two aspects are relatively more important for Meca and Electronic Mod users. Ego users are more concerned by their price than by the quality of e-vapor, probably because they are more likely to vape mouth-to-lung (MTL) compared to advanced users who prefer more aerial vaping styles, like direct-lung inhalation.

The most popular e-liquid bottle size is 30 ml (53%), which may reflect the general standard size on the US market with a panel dominated by North American users (37%). The reported unit price of e-liquid is $0.51/ml in the UK and $0.45/ml in the USA. The practice of DIY that consists in blending one’s own e-liquid from ingredients purchased independently on the internet, is susceptible to devise the unit price by a factor of 6 to 7, based on the comments made by 84 users who answered this question.

Nicotine strength in e-liquid (Source: ECigIntelligence)
Nicotine strength in e-liquid (Source: ECigIntelligence)

With most e-juice manufacturers recommending to switchers to start with a strength at least equivalent to smoking a pack a day, 16 mg/ml, it is interesting to notice that the most common nicotine strengths reported by current and ex-smokers range between 3 mg/ml and 12 mg/ml despite a majority of respondents declared vaping to quit or to get a nicotine fix after smoking cessation.

This tendency to the reduction of nicotine strength is in contradiction with the initial goal of vaping to provide a safer source of nicotine than combustible cigarettes. With several decades of combustible tobacco consumption, an elder adult smoker who tries to wean him/herself off tobacco with an e-cigarette will undoubtedly be oriented to the strongest nicotine e-liquid, as confirmed by the statistics of this survey when looking into detail nicotine strength and age.

Young versus old vaper’s behavior

But the survey also reveals that younger vapers tend to use lower nicotine strengths. Far from being reassuring, such feature evokes tendencies that may have substantial impacts on public health.

Power vaping that takes advantages of the technological evolution of Mods and sub-ohm atomizers, whose power may be brought to more than 200 W, is an example where e-liquid consumption may be brought to a higher level. As a consequence, adepts of this vaping style will reduce nicotine strength to compensate the higher volume they consume on a daily basis.

The false idea that a user should reduce nicotine strength with time is another tendency that comes to mind. A simple comparison between nicotine and caffeine is straightforward in this case: If you are used to 5 cups of strong coffee per day, reducing the number of cups or seeping decaffeinated coffee will create craving. The same applies to e-cigarettes and such behavior will inevitably lead to an increase in puffing rate and result in higher e-liquid consumption.

The health concerns associated to the two patterns arise with the daily consumption of larger quantities of e-liquid and a higher exposure to toxic or potentially toxic chemicals contained in the e-vapor.

Key brands among traditional or advanced vapers

Brnd preference with age (Source: ECigIntelligence)
Brand preference with age (Source: ECigIntelligence)

About three out of five hardware are of one of the most popular brands (Joyetech, Eleaf, Wismec, Sigelei, KangerTech, SMOK, Innokin or Aspire); the remainder come from brands with a lesser marketing impact like Pioneer4you, Vapor Shark, Asmodus, Provape, Tesla or Lost Vape.

When studying, among open systems, the brand preference with age, it appears that the name explicitly mentioned into the survey correspond to the hardware owned by more than 50% of the three tendencies are observed and probably reflect brand’s marketing strategies. For brands like Innokin, Eleaf or KangerTech, their popularity increases with user’s age while some others, like Sigelei and Aspire do not seem to be preferred by any particular age classe.

Finally, the case of Wismec and SMOK is more singular in this survey because these are two brands with a higher popularity among the youngest users. Both brands made their reputation with very advanced products: Wismec, for example, distributes the Reuleaux DNA and RX, two boxes characterized by their three batteries and a colossal output power of 200 W; SMOK distributes the atomizer TFV8 “Cloud Beast” with its 8 coils. This tends to demonstrate that the interest of young adults in vaping is very different from older generations.

Different behaviors are also observed between electronic mod/meca advanced users and eGo users, devoted to their material for its simplicity of use and who do not multiply devices, like advanced vapers. With a greater interest in technology, advanced users go to vape shops to get feedback from their community, they are also more attentive to the quality of their material and change their clearomizer or coils more often than eGo users who rather purchase their material online.

Preferences for buying their e-liquids per country (Source: ECigIntelligence)
Preferences for buying their e-liquids per country (Source: ECigIntelligence)

From one country to another, the differences in regulation create different habits for vaper to buy their e-liquids. In the USA, twice as many vapers (∼70%) go to vape shops to get their juice compared to web buyers. Austrian vapers are more than three times more abundant to go to vape shops than to buy online. The opposite is also true in the UK or in Sweden where twice as many vapers purchase e-liquids online rather than in vape shops. The harsh pre-TPD rules in Germany led vapers to turn most exclusively to online sources for their e-liquids.

Why only one vaping hardware?

The survey reveals that 74% of the respondents have a secondary hardware that they use on a daily basis (52%) or at least several times a week (31%). This secondary device is more likely to be another electronic mod, a meca or an eGo (e.g. for those who recently bought a Mod). The reasons invoked for using a secondary hardware are, first, to be able to quickly change flavors (46%) or to have a backup in case of failure. Among respondents, 20% declared using a secondary device of a more compact size than their principal hardware.

Satisfaction level of mod users with duration of use (Source: ECigIntelligence)
Satisfaction level of mod users with duration of use (Source: ECigIntelligence)

EGo users have the lowest satisfaction level when asked if they were satisfied with their current device. Among vapers using electronic mods or mecas, the longer they have been using them, the more satisfied. In vaping like in life, love is built up over time…