E-smoking: all smoke, no fire?

Vaping is booming. Where did the e-smoke trend originate and how is demand developing in Germany and Switzerland?

Whether with or without nicotine – vaping with electronic cigarettes is booming. The history of the e-cigarette goes back to 1963, when the first battery-powered model was patented. E-smoking is one of many trends exported from the US to Europe, where e-cigarettes are moving from a niche product to a segment with major potential.

Fifty-five years ago, the American Herbert A. Gilbert invented the first battery-powered electronic cigarette. It resembled current models with a container for liquid, which was battery-heated and gradually generated steam. However, his e-cigarette was ahead of its time and never actually went into production. It was another 40 years until Chinese chemist Hon Lik developed the e-cigarette and brought it to the Chinese market in 2004. However, the first major success for the e-cigarette was the “Joye 510” launched in 2008 by the American company Joyetech. It set the template for most modern e-cigarettes, which hardly resemble a classical cigarette any more. The common denominator for all models is that they have no tobacco and nothing is burned. Instead, the nicotine from the vaporised liquid goes straight into the blood via the lungs.


Valora is bringing e-smoke all over Germany

The trend is clear: vapers are growing in number. According to a Statista survey, e-cigarette sales in Germany only amounted to EUR 5 million in 2010. It soared to EUR 420 million within just six years. The “Verband des E-Zigaretten-Handels” (association of e-cigarette distributors and producers) predicted a further 42 percent growth in sales for 2017. Compared to other European countries, however, such as France or the United Kingdom, the German e-smoking market still has some ground to make up, as shown by a study published in the British Medical Journal in 2016.


Valora was quick to respond to the trend and has consistently broadened and increased its range. The company has been distributing electronic cigarettes and liquids with and without nicotine in Germany since 2014 and is the first provider to offer e-smoking products all over the country. Valora has increased its focus on e-smoking since mid-2017: half of all the 900 German retail outlets have been equipped with Valora’s own e-smoke sales units, which stand out from the rest of the shop design in a shop-in-shop format. Some outlets have as many as six of these units. Valora also has flagship stores in Neckarsulm and Nuremberg where customers can see Valora’s full e-smoking range and even sample it in a vaper’s lounge.


Potential in the Swiss market

Valora is also working with the major tobacco companies at the forefront of heat not burn products in Switzerland, such as IQOS, Ploom and Glo. E-cigarettes and nicotine-free liquids have been on offer in Valora retail outlets since 2014. The sale of nicotine-containing liquids was only approved in spring 2018. Although the Swiss e-smoking market is still at a relatively early stage of development, Valora is seeing a consistent rise in demand. According to the Swiss Vape Association, Swiss market volume for e-vaping devices and liquids is currently in the region of CHF 50 to 70 million – with a strong upward trend. Valora now offers more than 20 nicotine-containing and nicotine-free liquids in Switzerland for e-cigarettes at over 1,000 sales outlets of k kiosk, avec and Press & Books. In December 2018, Juul was launched as another alternative nicotine product. Juul is an e-cigarette from the US with a closed capsule system. The device uses specially designed pods, similar to a USB stick. The capsules contain a nicotine e-liquid made from nicotine salts.


Eighteen years or over at Valora

Although nicotine-containing e-smoking products can only be legally bought in Germany from the age of 18, there is still no official age restriction in Switzerland. A corresponding change in the law is currently under discussion. However, Valora only sells e-smoking and other tobacco products to persons in Switzerland from the age of 18.

Photos and video: Noë Flum
This article was first published on 27 September 2018 and was updated on 20 February 2019.