The Impact of Price and Tobacco Control Policies on the Demand for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems

Background: While much is known about the demand for conventional cigarettes, little is known about the determinants of demand for electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS or e-cigarettes). The goal of this study is to estimate the own and cross-price elasticity of demand for e-cigarettes and to examine the impact of cigarette prices and smoke-free policies on e-cigarette sales.

Methods: Quarterly e-cigarette prices and sales and conventional cigarette prices from 2009 to 2012 were constructed from commercial retail store scanner data from 52 US markets, for food, drug and mass stores, and from 25 markets, for convenience stores. Fixed-effects models were used to estimate the own and cross-price elasticity of demand for e-cigarettes and associations between e-cigarette sales and cigarette prices and smoke-free policies.

Results: Estimated own price elasticities for disposable e-cigarettes centred around −1.2, while those for reusable e-cigarettes were approximately −1.9. Disposable e-cigarette sales were higher in markets where reusable e-cigarette prices were higher and where less of the population was covered by a comprehensive smoke-free policy. There were no consistent and statistically significant relationships between cigarette prices and e-cigarette sales.

Conclusions: E-cigarette sales are very responsive to own price changes. Disposable e-cigarettes appear to be substitutes for reusable e-cigarettes. Policies increasing e-cigarette retail prices, such as limiting rebates, discounts and coupons and imposing a tax on e-cigarettes, could potentially lead to significant reductions in e-cigarette sales. Differential tax policies based on product type could lead to substitution between different types of e-cigarettes.