If you’ve been a member of the vaping community for any length of time, you will almost certainly have noticed several changes in our industry since you took your first vape. You might have noticed an increase in the number of friends or family members who have started to use e-cigarettes, or you may have been asked if vaping was a successful tool to help you stop smoking. You’ll also be aware of the increasing number of ejuice flavours available and how their popularity has changed with time.
Whilst we all have our own anecdotal evidence, if we want to get a sense of the trends for the community as a whole, it is useful to study a bigger sample size. With this in mind, we took to Reddit to expand our search and see how attitudes have changed on one of the most popular e-cigarette subreddits, r/Vaping.
What did we study?
We extracted 1,240,723 comments from the r/Vaping subreddit, covering the period January 2015 to February 2019, using SQL scripts via Google BigQuery to obtain the comments on a month-by-month basis.
We then analysed these comments en masse to look for trends and points of interest to show how the vaping community has changed in recent years. Using Reddit for this analysis provides genuine insights from vapers all over the world, allowing us to draw conclusions that are based on real-life experiences of thousands of people.
How popular is r/Vaping?
As of May 2019, the r/Vaping subreddit has over 94,000 members, and its popularity is growing with every passing month. The first month in our analysis, January 2015, saw just over 10,851 comments; February 2019 saw almost four times that amount, with 41,607 comments.
Figure 1 shows the steep rise in comments over the analysis period:
Furthermore, January 2015 saw an average of approximately 350 comments per day on the subreddit, but by February 2019, this had increased to an average of 1,485 daily comments (Figure 2).
The popularity of the r/Vaping subreddit mirrors the societal changes which have seen vaping numbers increase around the world over the last decade. According to figures produced by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the number of vapers in the United Kingdom has steadily increased since data was first recorded in 2012, when there were approximately 700,000 people using e-cigarettes. As of 2018, this number had increased to 3.2 million.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also shows that almost one in five Brits have tried an e-cigarette.
Globally, vaping is becoming more popular as customers seek alternatives to combustible cigarettes. An Ernst & Young survey covering seven major markets saw the number of e-cigarette users increase by 86% in just two years. In the United States, it is estimated that almost one in twenty adults currently uses an e-cigarette – equating to almost 10.8 million people.
It is little surprise, then, that the r/Vaping subreddit continues to grow in both members and comments. This matches the global trend, resulting in a larger number of Redditors contributing to the discussion on vaping. These comments may range from questions by newcomers or prospective vapers about equipment, all the way to robust debate about e-cigarette legislation and other industry news.
Which e-juice flavours are popular with Redditors?
The surge in vaping in recent years has led to a stream of new products within the industry, with producers of e liquids finding new flavour combinations to tempt consumers. Whilst many vapers start off with the familiar tobacco taste to imitate the flavour of a cigarette, the choice available now covers a broad scope of cooling menthol vapes, fruit-flavoured e liquids and sweet, satisfying desserts.
Studying the contributions to the r/Vaping subreddit can provide us with some insight into the most popular vaping flavours across the community, and how this changed over recent years. We looked at every Reddit comment in our study for mentions of over twenty of the most common e-juice flavours.
In 2015, the most popular flavours mentioned by Redditors were:
- Tobacco (1,315 mentions)
- Strawberry (1,111)
- Custard (958)
- Apple (758)
- Menthol (741)
It is likely that tobacco’s place at the top of the 2015 leaderboard is due to the significant number of vapers who begin with a tobacco vape due to their familiarity with the taste. However, through 2016, mentions of fruit-based flavours saw an increase of over 25% compared with 2015. This led to strawberry pipping tobacco in 2016 as the most mentioned flavour, with lemon and apple following in third and fourth place.
The trend towards fruity e-liquids has continued in the last couple of years, with half of the 2018 top ten mentioned flavours filled by fruit-based flavours. And whilst strawberry fell to second place last year, it was replaced at the summit by another fruit flavour – lemon.
The top five most popular flavours mentioned by Redditors in 2018 were:
- Lemon (2,364 mentions)
- Strawberry (2,186)
- Tobacco (2,112)
- Menthol (1,951)
- Apple (1,802)
Lemon’s meteoric rise in popularity has seen it go from just 490 mentions in 2015, all the way to 2,364 in 2018 – a massive 382% increase. Yet it isn’t even the flavour with the biggest rise by percentage – that honour goes to another fruit e-liquid, mango – which has soared from 149 mentions in 2015 to 783 throughout 2018 – an incredible increase of 425%.
The chart below (Figure 3) demonstrates the changing landscape of vaping flavours over time, tracking the Reddit mentions by year for the most popular flavours.
These findings help to highlight a significant benefit of vaping over smoking – the range of flavours available mean that consumers have greater choice over the singular taste of traditional, combustible cigarettes.
What do Redditors think about vaping as a ‘stop smoking tool’?
Organisations such as Public Health England (PHE) are advocates of using e-cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking. Findings by PHE show that vaping is associated with improved quit success rates over the last decade and may be contributing to at least 20,000 successful attempts by smokers to quit – primarily as research indicates that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking.
The r/Vaping subreddit has a mix of people who have approached vaping from all backgrounds. Some utilise e-cigarettes exclusively as a tool to stop smoking (as is the case with 48.8% of vapers in the UK, according to data from the ONS), whilst others simply partake for enjoyment.
As part of our research into the comments on the subreddit, we searched for the prevalence of certain ‘stop smoking’ phrases to see how this has changed over time. Comparing 2015 to 2018, we found that there was an increase of 46% of comments asking questions, offering advice or providing information on vaping as a method to stop smoking.
There are also some compelling, personal stories which further highlight the benefits Redditors have experienced of vaping compared with smoking:
“Congratulations! I also used vaping to quit smoking, and the change is dramatic. Like I can exercise without my lungs trying to find a new place to live now.”
“I quit smoking 3 months ago, smoked almost a pack a day for 18 years. I had tried the patch and gum. I use my vape for nicotine – I was sorta into the hobby side but really don’t care that much about it. I hope to eventually wean off nicotine too. However I don’t feel as tied to (enslaved would be a better word) my vape as I did to ciggies.”
“The day I started vaping was the day I quit smoking. I had one cig a month after quitting just to make sure I was missing out on anything, I wasn’t. That was 1.5 years ago.”
“Quit smoking 5 years ago because of vaping, also I smoked for about 4-5 years prior. Started getting into vaping and haven’t touched a cig since. Since then I now have 0 trouble with stairs and breathing, I don’t wake up with congestion and dark mucus. Also saved me a lot of money.”
Whether we’re analysing comments on Reddit or speaking to fellow vapers in person, there’s little doubt that the e-cigarette industry is thriving.
This trend looks set to continue in the coming months and years, particularly as the range of flavours continues to expand and additional studies and evidence support the idea that vaping is one of the most successful ways to quit smoking.