(Getty Images)
  • The vaping market has grown by 10% a year over the past decade in South Africa.
  • Growth in South Africa is not as fast as in other markets, partly due to the cost of vaping and the illicit cigarette trade.
  • On an annual basis, vaping is 7% less expensive than smoking. But the average transaction cost is four times higher.

The vaping market in South Africa is expanding at a steady pace, although these devices are not yet affordable enough to gain real traction.

A new study by the global management consulting firm Canback says the South African vaping market grew by an average of 10% a year over the past decade.

Source: Canback

The study found that, on an annual basis, vaping is 7% less expensive than smoking for the average smoker. It calculates that the average South African smoker spends R9,724 a year on legal cigarettes, while vapers only spend R8,307.

See also: Vaping in SA may cost more if British American Tobacco is allowed to buy Twisp, the Competition Commission says

However, the average cost of a transaction is much higher for vaping (R141) than for smokers (R35) because the devices and other inputs are more expensive.

Source: Canback

While vaping became 4% cheaper over the past two years in South Africa, the average South African will have to work almost 2,000 hours to afford a 20ml of vaping liquid and a device. In countries like Poland, Malaysia, and Russia, it works out to less than 1,000 hours.

In addition, the study found that the availability of cheap cigarettes on the black market makes it much cheaper to smoke than to vape in South Africa. Loose cigarettes are sold for 50c a piece in illicit trading, which “significantly impacts cigarettes affordability and increases accessibility to lower income levels,” the study found. At least eight billion cigarettes are sold on the black market in South Africa.

“The availability of cheap illicit cigarettes could be a reason for slow (vaping) growth relative to other countries,” says Canback.

Total revenue from vaping products in 2017 ($ million). Source: Canback

Some 97.7% of electronic vaping products – including e-liquids, devices, coil sand batteries – are currently sold through specialist shops in South Africa. Online selling has increased to 2.3%

“Online channels (are) going to become more prominent as it is well suited to subscription based models and independent, artisanal brands,” Canback predicts.

The study found that the majority (52%) of vapers use it as a way to quit cigarettes. The majority of electronic vapour product (EVP) users are current or former smokers.

Although EVPs introduces some non-smokers to the nicotine category, only 0.1% of people who never smoked before starts vaping regularly, the study found.

Source: Canback

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