This comes as sales of nicotine replacement products such as gums and patches have fallen for the first time in years.
Shane MacGuill, senior tobacco analyst at Euromonitor, said he was “hesitant” to conclude from the global data that consumers trying to kick the habit are increasingly choosing e-cigarettes over more traditional therapies, but said that the trend in bigger markets such as the UK “does look a lot like correlation and perhaps even causation”.
This change in consumer habits is coupled with the electronic cigarette consumer revolution that is beginning to shape the tobacco market. Cigarette companies are already struggling to combat smoking bans, rising taxes, increased health awareness and an overall decline in smokers.
“Up until now there has been no direct competition for cigarettes in a meaningful sense, and nicotine replacement therapies were certainly not providing that,” said Mr MacGuill. “The days of the traditional cigarette are numbered – the only question is how long that process will take – and e-cigarettes have the potential to drastically shorten the shelf life of traditional tobacco products.”
However it is still worth noting that the cigarette retail industry in the UK is still more than 30 times larger than its electronic alternative.
Combined with new laws in Australia and the UK that require cigarette packets to have plain packaging, vaping is “a difficult proposition for the tobacco industry and something it should be very worried about” says MacGuill. The UK is now the second largest market for vaping devices in the world after surpassing Italy.
UK vaping sales inched past nicotine replacement sales in 2012 and are now more than three times higher.
The proportion of adults in the UK who smoke dropped from 27pc in 1999 to 19pc last year, falling from 24pc to 17pc in the US.