In the vaping industry, there is 2 sides to the equation. Hardware + Juice = Vape Experience. With such a simple problem to solve, it vexes most consumers (and professionals alike) why 99% of the juice available in the market is…well let’s be honest, it’s terrible. From packaging, to marketing, to consistency, to flavoring it doesn’t work with the hardware that’s out there. I’m going to try and explain how we got here and where we are headed.
Take a look around the juice market and you’ll see 4 things that nearly every single manufacturer have (wrong) in common. Glass bottles with glass “eye” droppers, high vegetable glycerin ratios (70% and up), absurd sucralose saturations, and labeling and/or marketing that’s for a “younger” demographic (we’ll dive into marketing practices further down in detail).
Beginning around 2012, vaping started having actual market saturation in the US, fueled primarily from grassroots social media campaigns and passionate individuals. Without ANY regulation (or direction, as it were) this industry clawed its way kicking and screaming all the way to the present. During this time, as is still the situation today, 99% of “vapers” were smokers who were trying to be ex-smokers. The majority of these people were older, late 20’s to mid 50’s, and their primary purpose for vaping was simple, quit smoking traditional tobacco but still being able to consume nicotine. They wanted (and still do!) products that worked, were easy, and less expensive then smoking. The remaining 1% were the 18 to 25 year olds, some may have smoked briefly (most never considered themselves “smokers” for any significant portion of their life), and they were more interested in something “fun…new…exciting…(dare I say) rebellious”. The former had most of the money and intent, the latter had the passion and willingness to be different.
The most economical way to vape is through application of basic electrical engineering practices, mechanical mods (meaning no computer circuitry), hand built coils, in a dripper. So this is where a vast majority of the 18-25 year olds practiced, and they brought their passion, social media ninja skills, and were by far the “coolest” group in vaping. All sounds great, right? Well let’s look at what the unintended consequences have been. Manufacturers, foreign and domestic, began catering to this “loud” crowd, which is where glass bottles with glass eye droppers came from, very low nicotine levels (when cloud chasing, high nic will put you on your ass lol), high to maximum vegetable glycerin percentages, and syrupy sweet flavors are definitely for a younger demographic (also by decreasing the propylene glycol, flavor carrier, higher saturation was necessary). And then companies began describing themselves as “Premium” as a way to separate from the crowd, and the main requirement for a premium e-liquid….glass bottles….had nothing to do with ingredients quality, proprietary recipes, or efficacy. But to sit on the shelf with all the other “premium” brands you HAD to be in a glass bottle. Within a year, 98% of available juice can be described as such; high to maximum vegetable glycerin consistency, nicotine levels no higher than 6mg, super sweet flavors that decimate coils, and in a glass bottle with a glass dropper. The only problem is, hardware manufactures continue to make hardware that has been engineered for a 50pg/50vg blend, with filling systems that can’t accommodate glass eye droppers (nothing really can, they were engineered for single drop applications), and the vast majority of vapers (the ones we talked about earlier, ex-smokers, older demographic) still wanted and/or required nicotine strengths up to 24mg! This being a largely grassroots industry we have not been guided (or misguided depending on your perspective) by standard corporate business practices, so it mostly hasn’t seemed to matter that nearly all of the juice available isn’t designed for the hardware that’s available, or in solutions that most vapers actually want.
Let’s talk about marketing for a minute. Is there some grand conspiracy to market vaping to children? Not that I’ve ever seen, but I can’t make any promises. And in a world where the Hollywood Marvel Universe is worth $20 billion, vodka comes in 25 different flavors, and Vegas has more light bulbs then the rest of America combined, apparently adults and kids alike enjoy bright, colorful, flavorful, even at times “cartoonish” marketing. So I’m going to avoid this topic entirely because there’s little rationale in that discussion. What I will say is this, Vaping is an activity that largely manifested because consumers were tired of being lied to by monstrous corporations. Manufacturers that don’t label, or CORRECTLY label their PG/VG ratio, nicotine strengths, and complete ingredients, are the problem I am referring to. By not “admitting” what’s in juice, we as an industry can hardly be looked at any better than big tobacco. All business should be as transparent as possible, and that means 99.3% of the time!
So hopefully this will help make sense of how we ended up where we are. It wasn’t any single person, or group of people, that can be blamed. A brand new industry, being built from the ground up (largely without the aid of professional business people), and we haven’t made it to maturity yet, is the biggest problem we have. But “making it to maturity” isn’t a guarantee, and things will need to change. Obviously there’s different needs out there for vaping, and we just hope the industry can figure out ways to make most vapers happy.