But tobacco market analysts predict that not only will electronic cigarettes fail to normalize smoking, but they will do quite the opposite: de-normalize smoking by substantially reducing cigarette consumption.
In a recent analysis, Bonnie Herzog - senior analyst - and Jessica Gerberi - Associate Analyst - of Wells Fargo Securities pointed to the fact that convenience store unit sales of cigarettes declined to the lowest level in the past year, which they argue could be due to electronic cigarettes. They also suggest that within a decade, e-cigarettes could actually surpass tobacco cigarettes in consumption: "Unit sales were at the lowest they've been in the past year and we believe could be partially due to the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, whose consumption we believe could surpass traditional cigs within the next decade."
The Rest of the Story
Contrary to the apparent thinking of many anti-smoking groups and advocates, the most important factor in the normalization or de-normalization of cigarette smoking is the prevalence of smoking. The more smokers, the more smoking is normalized. A substantial decline in cigarette consumption, as predicted by these analysts, would do more than any other intervention to de-normalize smoking.
Thus, in contrast to the assertions of many anti-smoking groups, electronic cigarettes represent the greatest threat to the normalization of smoking in many years.
Even many experts in tobacco control fail to appreciate this basic and important point. For example, Stan Glantz recently argued on his blog that: "It may well be that e-cigarettes have the effect of keeping people smoking conventional cigarettes." If these market analysts are correct, then Stan's argument is 180 degrees wrong. Cutting cigarette consumption so much that it is seriously challenged by electronic cigarette consumption is hardly "keeping people smoking conventional cigarettes." It is quite the opposite.