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Study Shows High Nicotine E-Cigarettes Dominate US Market, Sales Up 15 Times in Five Years

JOYMY reported on January 6 that sales of e-cigarettes with the highest nicotine content (5% or higher nicotine strength) in the U.S. market have grown significantly over the past five years, increasing nearly 15-fold from 5% of total e-cigarette sales in 2017 to 81% in 2022, according to a foreign news release.

The rise in disposable vape, the most popular type of e-cigarette among young people with a wide range of flavors, has been even steeper. Over 90% of disposable vape sold have the highest nicotine content, compared to 0% in 2017. With the product's exemption from US federal restrictions on flavoured e-cigarettes in 2020, the popularity of disposable vape has surged, with use increasing by about 1,000% among high school e-cigarette users between 2019 and 2020.

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The study, published in the Center for Disease Control's Nicotine and Tobacco Study in collaboration with the Truth Initiative ®, also found that the price of e-cigarettes with high nicotine content had decreased or remained unchanged, while the price of e-cigarettes with lower nicotine content had decreased.

The findings suggest that limiting the nicotine strength of e-cigarettes may be part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy to reduce youth addiction to these products.

Rapidly rising nicotine levels in e-cigarettes may addict young people

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, by 2022, more than 2.5 million middle and high school students report using e-cigarettes, and nearly half (46%) of high school students smoke e-cigarettes nearly every day, putting them on a potential trajectory of developing nicotine addiction throughout their lives.

As e-cigarettes have expanded to include multiple flavors and device types, nicotine strength has been climbing. Between 2013 and 2018 alone, the average nicotine strength in e-cigarette products increased from 2.10% to 4.34%, an increase of 106.7%. The popular JUUL device was originally launched in 2015 with a 5% nicotine salt pod, prompting JUUL competitors to start offering nicotine salt strengths of up to 7%, in what has become known as the nicotine arms race.

High nicotine products make up the bulk of the e-cigarette market

To measure changes in nicotine levels, researchers examined e-cigarette retail data from January 2017 to March 2022 from brick-and-mortar retailers in the continental US. Over the past five years, sales of e-cigarettes with nicotine levels above 5% have increased significantly in years, from 5% in 2017 to 81% in 2022. unit share sales of high-nicotine products increased nearly 15 times from 2017 to 2022, and dollar share sales increased more than 13 times.

Products with the highest nicotine content account for the majority of e-cigarette sales, regardless of device type and flavor. For example, the majority of e-cigarettes sold in other (96%), menthol (87%), menthol (79%) and tobacco (61%) flavors have a nicotine concentration of 5% or higher.

Between 2017 and 2022, sales of disposable vape with more than 5% nicotine content rise from 0% to over 90% of the market share, while pre-filled cartridges rise from 8% to 74%. On the other hand, products with less than 1% nicotine strength, including zero nicotine products, account for less than 0.1% of sales.

High nicotine e-cigarette prices plummet

The increase in market share and sales of high-nicotine e-cigarettes corresponds to a decline in price. By 2022, higher nicotine products become cheaper or remain the same, while lower nicotine products become more expensive. Between 2017 and 2022, the price of products with 1-2% nicotine strength increases from $10.40 to $ 29.20, while the price of products in the 4-5% range drops from $20 to just $12.80. Because young people are interested in price, lowering the price of high nicotine e-cigarettes could lead to greater product uptake and use.

National standards for nicotine content

There are no limits on nicotine concentration in e-cigarettes in the US.

In June 2022, the Biden administration included in its agenda a plan to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to levels that are not addictive.

The Truth Initiative strongly believes that reducing nicotine to non-addictive levels must be extended to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

"Nicotine standards can reduce the addictive nature of these products, especially for populations such as young people," the authors of the study wrote. The study authors write. "Strategies that address the factors that make e-cigarettes particularly appealing to young people, including taste and product innovation, are essential."