Market Niche We Never Knew We Had: E-Cigarettes

It's Friday, it's been a long week, and later today I'll have an interview that will provide lots of useful information I will share with you next week. But for the moment, I'd like to introduce something I'll call “a market niche we never knew we had.”

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

They come with a rechargeable battery, a sensor, some atomization technology, and, in fact, a small logic board. They also come with accessories and a USB port. Best of all, the disposable versions are on “mega” sale this week for $14.99 (which is how I discovered this market in the first place — a press release).

For the moment, let's set aside the question “Why would I buy a disposable e-cigarette when the old-fashioned types are already disposable?” Here's what Wikipedia says about e-cigs:

    The housing for the battery and logic board is usually the largest component of an electronic cigarette. It is generally referred to simply as the “battery”. This unit may contain an electronic airflow sensor for automated operation, or a button for manual operation. A timed cutoff switch (to prevent overheating) and/or a colored LED may also be included here.

    Most electronic cigarettes use a lithium-ion rechargeable battery to power the heating element. Battery life varies depending on the battery type and size, frequency of use, and operating environment. To recharge their batteries, many different types of battery chargers – such as AC outlet, car, and USB – are available.

The price range for these things: $14.99 for a disposable model, up to hundreds of dollars for rechargeables and e-cig kits. They also come in custom colors and flavors — the possibilities are endless.

By the way, these things don't help you quit smoking, can contain nicotine, and presumably are bad for the environment once you throw them away. They are smokeless, however, so I guess you can use them inside. And they do contain electronics, so you might want to get one of your outside salespeople on it.

If you know of a unique market niche, write to us at . Maybe we can make this a regular Friday feature.

29 comments on “Market Niche We Never Knew We Had: E-Cigarettes

  1. Hardcore
    May 13, 2011

    This product was first to be found in the Chinese and Taiwanese market, specifically being marketed as a 'Health aid”.

    Both the Chinese and Taiwanese cigarette markets are massive, but people also understand that there are health risks associated with smoking, hence an 'electronic cigarette”.

    There has been some research into the safety of this product range, specifically becaue instead of just ingesting the crap that normally goes into a 'traditional' cigarette, you are now drawing air down a heated plastic tube, that contains (up until recently Lead and other toxic materials associated with normal electronic products), consider heating a digital watch then ingesting the particulates that were produced.

    In-depth research on these products and the risks they present  is still heavily under research, but some countries have also started considering banning such products.

    Even with this product, the market moves on fairly rapidly, one of the newer models also has a 'communication' system built in, so that it can locate and seek out other people using the product, thereby producing a hive like mentality amongst people of similar interests.

    There are not too many details on this new product yet, but interestingly enough this may also enable advertisers to target users of the product by tracking the users.


  2. Hardcore
    May 14, 2011

    Ahh, Here we go:

    The British press have a short article on another model:

    Seems this particular product also allows you to get the 'personal' details of the other smokers, after they have given permission and the  pack vibrates when you pass a store selling re-fills for your product. Potentially it could be made to vibrate strongly when passing Cancer hospitals.;-)

    Pavlov would be proud of this development, as it seems to clearly highlight his research goals. Further details can be gleaned here:



  3. Anand
    May 14, 2011

    Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley said that e-cigarettes had great potential for reducing the morbidity and mortality related to smoking. If this claim by scientists is true then i guess E-cigarettes are very good alternative to normal cigarettes.

  4. mfbertozzi
    May 14, 2011

    Studies reported are very important especially for addressing health.

    (@ Barbara and all) Coming back to “market niche” I would like to report a couple of examples:

    -card reader free to accept payment with phone or tablet, see squareup

    -ipv4 block sales as per Nortel did recently, ARIN admitted that sales, interesting market is coming

  5. eemom
    May 14, 2011

    I have one question…why??  I am not a smoker so perhaps that is why I don't understand the “potential” market for this product.  Inhaling not only nicotine but who knows what through a product charged with batteries seems like eliminating one problem by introducing a whole slew of new ones.  I am curious how scientists would know that it would reduce the mortality rate related to smoking!! This is a brand new technology that is not proven or tested long enough for them to understand the long term ramification of its use.  This is a little out there for me and I don't see it taking off.

  6. Wale Bakare
    May 14, 2011

    Thanks for the piece Barbara. Due to the health issue sorrounding smoking, e-cigarette may seem very difficult to penerate consumer market. Stick of e-ciga contains plastic tube with heating element, battery, control electronics and cartridge of liquid containing nicotine. 

    According to reports by Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), 

           Ruyan, the largest e-cigarette manufacturer, has annual global sales of over        £33m. E-cigarettes are also finding favour with some doctors. The American       Association of Public Health Physicians believes that e-cigarettes could save the lives of half the adult smokers who would otherwise die a tobacco related death over the next 20 years. However, governments and scientists arent buying it. 

    Also issue of quality and reliability of e-cigarette manufacturing rasied  by Thomas Eissenberg of the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies at Virginia quoted below:

     …concerns about the propylene glycol found in most e-cigarette. This is generally considered safe as food as a vehicle for intravenous drugs in hospitals where high or prolonged doses can lead to lactic acidosis

    Eissenberg questioned  ” is propylene glycol when inhaled into the lungs as safe as when it is eaten?  I dont think anyone knows the answer to that question ” 

  7. SP
    May 14, 2011

    Thank you Barbara for such an interesting article. I am sure I didnt know there is some thing like e-cigarrettes. Good to get educated. With the amount of sale that cigarette mfr. get, sure this has good market ofcourse if people who smoke vouch for it.

  8. Adeniji Kayode
    May 14, 2011

    This is an amazing article Barbara, as much as i know we are in the jet age and many things will be taken over by electronics, I never thoughtciga can ever be among.I mean what was the inventor thinking about.

    Moreover, are smokers now free from the dangers of the normal ciggarrettes.

  9. Hardcore
    May 15, 2011

    Hi eemom,

    If you 'crack' open the harvard report:

    They are saying it is potentially 'safer' because a normal cigarette has between 10,000- 100,000 chemicals of which about 5,300 have been analyzed (see report page 3) and these new devices only seem to have a few hundred chemicals, so logically they 'must' be safer.

    However the report does not clearly give the conditions for the analysis system, IE were the analysis taken from just heating the inserts or were they taken from actual functioning devices.

    So based on a spectrum analysis of the chemicals they are stating that these devices have the potential to be “safer”, but we can say the same for any new technology and unfortunately in many cases hignsight has shown that this is not always the case.


    Such research does not appear to take into account defective or aging product, nor the fact that the same device is used for different 'mixes' of chemicals, as a result they cannot really say what exotic mixes could be formed when the device is not correctly operated.

    The only concern I have, is that these devices will be used to bypass current anti-smoking legislation.Personally I could not care less if someone over the age of 18 wants to ingest toxic substances into their OWN body, but I am strongly against being forcefully and illegally medicated by non-qualified people.



  10. ecigator
    May 15, 2011

    I love my electronic cigarette, mostly because of the freedom I have while smoking them; like you mentioned. It's nice to be able 



    to smoke almost anywhere, even around my grandchildren! I recommend these to all my smoking friends.  @









  11. Nemos
    May 15, 2011

    If it doesn't help you to quit smoking it is unnecessary,  a lot of people buy it and try to quit smoking. Ι don't know if it really helps, but I know for sure that it makes many sales.

  12. Ariella
    May 15, 2011

    I don't have any first-hand experience with smoking. However, I've had students who smoked who claimed that they crave the experience of smoking (in admitting to having smoked tea leaves when nothing else was on hand) and “just something to do with your hands,” and not just nicotine. As far as that goes, the e-cigarette could fulfill the need, though I don't know if I would recommend it if it does not contribut to people being weaned off smoking altogether, which should be the real goal. BTW next week smoking will be illegal in NYC parks and beaches (see Perhaps the cigarettes would be allowed, though, if they don't give off smoke. 

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    May 15, 2011

    For me, smoking is smoking may be electronic or not. There should be certain restrictions on the e-cigarettes too.

  14. Adeniji Kayode
    May 15, 2011


    Really! I feel that is a symtom of addiction. Don,t you think?

  15. Ariella
    May 15, 2011

    Yes, it is a sign of addiction to habit if not substance.

    I'd imagine that e-cigarettes would not be allowed to be sold to minors just like real cigarettes. I would also imagine that the advertising for them would have to be done in such a way that does not appear to lure teens. 

  16. saranyatil
    May 16, 2011

    Tobacco is so injurious to health, with products like e – cig is only going to increase the number of smokers and addiction rate is going to grow.

    This is my thought just may be because i hate cigarates.

  17. Mydesign
    May 16, 2011

       Barbara, I think addiction is like a cancer. Couple of years back, companies had introduced the E-cigarettes to market as an alternative for tobacco cigarette. Even though it reduces the harmful effect of tobacco, which can cause lungs cancer, it can introduce some other respiratory problems. The presence of Led/Mercury in mouth can cause mouth ulcer and other related problems. More over the use and through of this devices can cause other types of environmental problems too.

  18. Adeniji Kayode
    May 16, 2011

    Saranyati- I agree with you,I dont really see how e-ciga can reduce the number of smokers.It look so enticing with promise to reduce the risk on the normal cigarettes but then introducing  new ones. Despite what ever it might promise ,there should still be strong restriction on it though.

  19. jbond
    May 16, 2011

    As much as I despise cigarette smoke and would like to see it all disappear, I have to say these manufacturers have definitely found a market. It seems like everywhere you go there are booths set up selling these things. Since they do contain electronic components and batteries, they are unfortunately included in the supply chain. The fact is that as long as cigarette prices continue to rise and more states and cities ban smoking, these e-cigs are going to sell.  

  20. mfbertozzi
    May 16, 2011

    I agree with you, in principle, but as per other products or services, this market niche will be very conditioned by Gov rules which are still depending on location and change a lot from country to country. Sometimes smoking is really forbidden, sometimes is full admitted also in public area such as restaurant, airports and so on. Maybe launch of e-cigarette in the market will face different results just for above reasons.

  21. Ariella
    May 16, 2011

    In the US, smoking is banned indoors almost everywhere and now — in New York  City at least — even outdoors in parks and beaches as I mentioned in an earlier comment.   The laws are in place to protect those of who don't smoke. I still remember a seminar I took way back when in grad school.. One day was rescheduled, so only another student and I met with the professor. Because it was not the set class, he felt free to light up. My fellow student took that as license to smoke, as well. And I was stuck with second-hand smoke. I am even put off by he smell cigarettes it that clings to smokers even when they are not smoking.

    But to get back to the e-cigarette development, Blu, a company that develops them, has created a social network for smokers:

    Their newly-developed “smart pack” contains a radio device that emits a signal and can search for other packs. If one is within 50 feet, the pack vibrates and flashes with a blue light. So people who smoke these e-cigarettes can meet up to chat, and smokers can easily find retail outlets that stock the blu cigarettes if they want more.

  22. mfbertozzi
    May 16, 2011

    Exactly Ariella, you have mentioned US, but picture looks different in several other countries. It has been proved strong correlation between smoke (active and passive) and human health. I was wondering if Govs could improve e-cigarette adoptation just to fight that issues.

    It is time also to put on the table another question: was smoking banned in US for safety reason or with the aim  (from major tabacco industries) to avoid huge refund to person impacted by?

  23. Ariella
    May 16, 2011

    I assure you, mbertozzi that the tobacco industry is not happy about these bans and likely tried to prevent them. They are always motivated by the protection of the nonsmoker. To quote the article I linked to in an earlier comment:

    A city health department study published in 2009 found that 57 percent of nonsmoking adult New Yorkers had an elevated level of a nicotine byproduct in their blood indicating recent exposure to cigarette smoke. The comparable nationwide figure was 45 percent.

    City health officials say that people seated within three feet of a smoker are exposed to roughly the same levels of secondhand smoke, regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors. The ban is also intended to help reduce trash in public places.

    The litter from smokers is another thing that irritates me a great deal. Smokers just dump the butts and even empty boxes of cigarettes on the sidewalk wherever they happen to be.  I realize that we no longer have ash trays strewn everywhere, but that's no reason to turn the sidewalk into one.


  24. Kunmi
    May 17, 2011

    For smoke addicts, the e-cigarette may help but because of human mentality, it is not yet real. The unfortunate issue is the outcome of that research because the comfort level of many cigarette lovers are very detrimental to the health of the fellow non-smokers. In work places, many people can not do without smoking 3-4 time with 8 hours of work  ….. what a cummulative impact on production? Littering of the environment is another socio-economic impact.

  25. mfbertozzi
    May 17, 2011

    Well, in addition to studies and benchmark, I was wondering how Internet could support and promote educational actions in order to

    -increase number of people fully aware of possible healt damages
    -promote “etiquette” to observe for both smokers & no-smokers
    -promote “etiquette” to observe for public location owners (restaurants/fast-slow food etc)
    -broadcast alternative solutions to decrease nicotine dependency

    Here @ EBN we have discussed a lot about social networks, could they support actions in the sense above summarized? Personally, I think so.

  26. Ariella
    May 17, 2011

    Actually, there are quite a few websites that contain information about the damage caused by smoking. They sometimes come up in a search for cigarettes online. Some are informational, though others are designed  to sell you products to help smokers kick the habit.

  27. Barbara Jorgensen
    May 17, 2011

    Thanks for the feedback, all! I am a non-smoker, so I'll admit to some pre-conceived notions going into this article. I think the smokeless aspect of e-cigs is a positive and I thank our readers who use e-cigs for their input. I also think that if you are going to use nicotine, a non-tobacco delivery method is preferable. For smokers, it's not the nicotine that is the most harmful (athough it is the most addictive) it's the stuff in the tobacco. Kudo to anyone who has quit smoking–I hear it is very, very difficult.

  28. t.alex
    May 21, 2011

    I believe e-cigarette may be more harmful than normal cigarette. This is because you can control the amount of nicotine you can put in. It was a weird situation once i came into the office and saw my colleague smoking, with e-cigarette of course. People may not be comfortable i guess.

  29. elctrnx_lyf
    May 23, 2011

    My personnel feeling is that this is not really going to benefit any smokers. The e-cigarettes also seems to be very costly for a disposable model. This is no more than an LED light.

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