As I write this article, we are at the end of 2012 looking out toward 2013. I'm willing to bet 2013 will be an interesting year for the electronic cigarette industry. I was recently asked for a prediction or two for another blog. I ended up going a little overboard and provided a whole lot more than that. I figured why let my e-cigarette predictions go to waste when I can expand on them and present them here. If nothing else, come back here at the end of 2013 I should either look like a soothsayer or a lunatic based on what happens!
Technology will continue to progress forward. More variable voltage and wattage devices will fill the market at lower prices. Devices with computer interfaces will become more common. Both Janty and Joyetech released devices like this at the end of 2012.
Rebuildable coil technology has taken off this year as well. I expect something else to take its place in 2013 that provides a simpler and more efficient alternative to wire coils and silica wick. It will likely be terrible at first and then gradually improve.
(This is mostly repurposed from the original article on the Ashtray Blog).
The FDA will release at least draft regulations for OTPs (other tobacco products). Deeming regulations may or may not be enacted by the end of the year. I expect the large cigar industry to use their lobbying might to get congress to exempt them from the FDA's control.
I have heard some hints from e-cigarette companies that have been in talks with the FDA that the proposed regulations may not be as harsh as forcing all e-cigarette technology back to what was available in 2007. That doesn't mean the small retailers won't suffer. e-Liquid manufacturers will be required to undergo rigorous certification and licensing requirements to be able to produce products containing nicotine. This could squeeze out small boutique makers who lack the financial resources to commit to the process.
As far as e-liquid goes, there's a very good chance it will become a thing of the past. The FDA is likely to limit consumer access to self-contained products only (i.e. pre-filled cartomizers). Naturally, this will have a devastating impact on advanced hardware like clearomizers and rebuildables. As a result, a grey market will form around DIY e-liquid.
There will be heavy restrictions on e-cigarette advertising. Those slick Blu commercials will go the way of Fred Flintstone hawking Lucky Strikes. Restrictions could also cover online ads, further squeezing small vendors (and websites that rely on advertising for revenue).
Online sales could either banned outright or subject to rigorous age verification requirements. A full ban would cut most small businesses from the industry.
Most likely there will be a public comment period for the new regulations. Support for e-cigarettes will pour in. Perhaps some of the more outrageous restrictions will be softened. If the FDA becomes too overbearing in its restrictions, there may even be a lawsuit or two.
The Rest of the World
The WHO’s recent statements on electronic cigarettes will encourage some countries to enact wholesale bans on e-cigarettes. Chances are good that the countries doing so will be some of the poorest and most vulnerable to traditional tobacco.
Despite the EU's previous tobacco initiative's head going down in a bribery scandal, things will continue largely on the same track with someone else picking up the banner for the fallen prohibitionist. Snus will likely remain banned while e-cigarettes may get the same treatment, or be subject to unobtainable requirements to certify as a cessation product. Ratification of such actions may take longer than one year to achieve.
Retail and “Name Brand” eCigs
Expect most e-cigarette brands to redouble efforts to get placement on physical store shelves. Limited shelf space means that there will be some consolidation in this area. Some of the less competitive brands may fall off while a few players will become recognized brands in the retail sector.
There will be another big tobacco buyout. The current favorite marriage is Marlboro parent Altria and NJoy.
Disposables will grow faster in retail than kits. They may become more “cigarette-like” as well mimicking the NJoy King. Disposable pricing will be oddly inline with the price of a pack of traditional cigarettes.
Tobacco Harm Reduction
THR has been around for a long time. In 2012, the concept has picked up some steam and mentions of the concept have crept into the mainstream media. Expect this trend to continue as the idea makes its way further into the consciousness of the general population. Don't expect it to be a smooth path, there will doubtless be instances of a media outlet or two misreporting on the philosophy.
Similarly, THR advocates have begun to find their voices in 2012. Not that many of these folks weren't vocal, of course. Rather, their voices are being heard by more people. Once again, expect an increase on this front in 2013 as well.
As THR and its proponents get more attention, expect more open hostilities between prohibitionists and THR activists. This has already begun in some instances with Dr. Siegel posting a few articles on his blog about negative reactions from prohibitionists.
Finally, we have the prohibitionist camp in our predictions. Sadly, my prediction is not that they will see the light in the upcoming year and shut up. Quite the contrary, with continued attention paid to quit smoking efforts sort of fizzling out, expect these groups to get noisier.
The attention e-cigarettes are getting has shifted the arguments made against the devices. This year it was mostly about denying the research that has come out in support of the devices will shift to a new tactic. Again, this is already happening. The mantra now is that e-cigarettes will hurt “denormalization” efforts by making smoking look cool again. There will also be more “gateway” to smoking arguments as well I think.
Ok, you can call me a buzzkill if you like, I understand. Personally, I hope I'm wrong about an awful lot of stuff in this article. I've been wrong before. I expected the FDA apocalypse to happen last year. I still stand firm that regulation is a foregone conclusion in the US. It's simply a matter of degree and when it will happen.
Why should I have all the fun playing the Great Karnak here? I have a comments section, let's hear what you have to say for 2013!