There was a time not long ago that the sight of smoke billowing from the driver’s side window of a car would either strongly suggest a serious breach of maintenance or that the operator had obtained one of those totally cool Dashboard Hibachi’s (As Seen On TV). These days you can be pretty sure that it indicates that someone is blowing smoke courtesy of an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette.
Sometimes they look more cigarette than electronic, sometimes more electronic than cigarette. Whatever the case or model, the e-cigarette has experienced exceptional growth in popularity and sales in less than a decade. Consider that from 2009 to 2012 the industry experienced 115 percent annual growth. Today, sales are nearing the $10 billion mark and the devices are used worldwide. Analysts at Wells Fargo Bank are predicting sales will hit $50 billion by 2025.
This is from a product that has only been around since 2003, when it was invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. Today, there are more than 500 brands of e-cigarettes with the great majority of manufacturers in China, though the great majority of users are located in North America and Europe, which both account for a bit more than two-thirds of customers for the product. About 13 percent of American adults had used an e-cigarette at one time while nearly 4 percent use them regularly.
There are American manufacturers of the products: ProVape, Hana Modz, and, perhaps most notably, Tampa-based White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes, which launched in 2008 with three people working out of a Volkswagen. Today the company has 85 employees and $14 million in revenue that has doubled each year of its existence.
White Cloud is not only a great place to work—in 2014 the Tampa Times named it the best place to work in the region—but it is a great example of how any company, no matter the size, becomes a global entity when on the Internet. White Cloud has coordinated with manufacturers in China, invested in research and design and shipped products all over the world via the World Wide Web.
Manufacturers actually produce three main types of e-cigarettes: “cigalikes,” which look like cigarettes; “e-Gos, which are bigger than cigalikes with refillable liquid tanks; and “mods” which are assembled from basic parts or by altering existing products and kinda look like someone is sucking from a cellphone or really fancy, slightly obese pen. The power source is the biggest component of an e-cigarette, which is frequently a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Increasing sales and popularity has meant an increasing amount of specialization in the industry. American outfit Evolv has witnessed great success as a manufacturer of chipsets used in some of the best mods in the world. Evolv’s “DNA” board, which controls wattage, temperature protection, preheating and digital user controls, is considered the gold standard in the industry.
Perhaps there is no greater sign of the potential long-term success of the e-cigarette industry than the fact that international tobacco giants, which considered the products little more than a fad at first, have jumped into the market with gusto. One of the first big moves was by Lorillard in 2012 when it purchased blu eCigs. Not long after that, British American Tobacco became the first tobacco company to sell e-cigarettes in the United Kingdom when it launched Vype in 2013. Reynolds American entered the market with its Vuse offering and Phillip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco firm, purchased UK’s Nicocigs in June 2014. Any thought of this all being a fad ended the very next month, when Lorillard sold blu to Imperial Tobacco as part of a $7.1 billion deal.
The presence of Big Tobacco is an indicator to some that e-cigarette manufacturers claims that their product will wean people off smoking and get them to eventually stop altogether as dubious or, at the very least, naive. But some e-cigarette manufacturers have started to offer alternative brews: Canada’s Eagle Energy Vapor is now selling a caffeine-based e-cigarette completely devoid of nicotine.
Holistic-Vape, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has come up with its “NoNic” formula which contains no tobacco products of any kind. NoNic is made from pure herbs and plants extracted and blended together in a one-of-a-kind process and is designed to calm addictive cravings while offering that “little buzz” (their phrase) smokers love. “We have carefully set ourselves apart from the competition with our holistic approach to our formulas,” says Judy Henry, owner of Holistic-Vape. “We have been searching for the right combinations to enhance a healthful life experience.”
Just like when cell phones first showed up, the e-cigarette is still developing a set of acceptable rules of use and etiquette. The website MyVaporStore encourages e-cigarette users to consider others and not “sneak vape in the bathroom” and perhaps, most importantly, “No Cloud Chasing in Public.”
What’s Cloud Chasing? According to MyVapeStore it is when “vapers attempt to exhale the biggest vapor clouds possible. While this is a fun activity in E-Cig stores and competitions, purposely blowing huge amounts of vapor into the air in public is quite impolite and should be avoided at all costs.”
Indeed. And yes, there are e-cigarette competitions complete with contests for biggest cloud and freestyle expression.
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