Study finds combustible tobacco cigarettes cost less than e-cigarettes

Combustible tobacco cigarettes cost less to purchase than equivalent amounts of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in 44 of 45 countries sampled around the world, according to a new American Cancer Society study. The study, appearing in Tobacco Control, concludes the gap exists despite the fact that e-cigarettes are not yet widely subjected to comparable excise taxes as combustible cigarettes.

Warnings that e-cigarettes are a cheap, tax advantaged product relative to heavily taxed combustible cigarettes have been repeatedly claimed in the scientific literature and lay media. These claims, however, do not appear to be based on empirical price data. The researchers say the pervasiveness of this claim may lead some policymakers to consider imposing e-cigarette taxes without accurate information.

To find out, researchers led by Alex Liber of the American Cancer Society and the University of Michigan School of Public Health compared the cost of combustible cigarettes to those for two major kinds of e-cigarettes: disposable e-cigarettes (non-refillable); and rechargeable e-cigarettes, which can be refilled with nicotine liquid.

The researchers found that on average, the price of a pack of combustible tobacco cigarettes was just over half the price of a disposable e-cigarette ($5.00 and $8.50, respectively). They also found that while the liquid nicotine used to refill e-cigarettes can cost a couple of dollars less than a pack of regular cigarettes, the minimum price to purchase a rechargeable e-cigarette to use this liquid nicotine is more than $20. The rechargeable e-cigarettes preferred by most daily e-cigarette users cost even more.

The authors note that there is considerable debate in the public health community and media about e-cigarettes and similar new products. While some see e-cigarettes playing a potential role in helping smokers quit, others point to strong concerns about youth uptake, lack of information about potential harms, lack of product regulation, and industry marketing practices, among other issues.

Among those who see a role for e-cigarettes to reduce tobacco-related death and disease, some argue that price differences between combustible cigarettes and e-cigarettes could be effective in moving current combustible users to e-cigarettes. This paper establishes that a difference in price between combustibles and e-cigarettes already exists, albeit with e-cigarettes being the more expensive product.

The study's authors reinforce the importance of increasing the price of cigarettes through excise taxes, but suggest that how to tax e-cigarettes is complex. Some jurisdictions around the world, notably the United Kingdom, with a pack of cigarettes averaging the equivalent of nearly US $14, have achieved price equality between cigarettes and e-cigarettes. Whether and how that policy changes the use of the two products in the UK and around the world remains to be seen.


American Cancer Society


  1. G.j. Cox G.j. Cox United States says:

    Firstly, the American Cancer Society is greatly influenced by the pharmaceutical companies from which they get a great deal of their funding.  Think gum, patches, lozenges, Chantix, and, of course, counseling and extra ofc. visits.

    Secondly, most e-cig companies (cigarette looking ecigs) are owned by the tobacco companies and are expensive IF you stick with them; but most vapers quickly go on to better, refillable gear.

    Thirdly, the second and third generation ecigs (mods, vaporizers, pens) and refillable atomizers are owned by companies independent of tobacco and drug companies and once bought are used for a year and more depending on what battery type is used.  Far cheaper than combustible cigarettes and far cheaper than the small cigarette looking ecigs.

    Fourthly, I do wish the authors of this "paper" would get a clue about vaping and it's costs before writing what at best is an "opinion piece."  It would have taken all of one week to go to several of their local vape shops and talked to the owners/managers, visit on line and/or to achieve "some" knowledge of this topic.  There are vapers out there spending less than 30 cents a day after initial setup expense with reuseable, long lasting equipment.

    Fifthly, NOT having medical expenses because of NOT having a health problem due to smoking those incinerating tubes of tobacco leaves SAVES a lot of money that can be spent elsewhere.....Like rent, food and diapers.  You would think the American Cancer Society would applaud that fact.

  2. Jamie Currier DeMan Jamie Currier DeMan United States says:

    I spent $450 on my latest vape mod (solid copper/indestructible/will last forever) and $100 on the atomizer (stainless steel/indestructible/will last for years) that sits on top. That is less than three months worth of cigarettes for me. The only expense I will have moving forward is the liquid which will cost me $52.20 per month and that's if I don't mix my own liquid. I was spending $192.50 per month on cigarettes so my savings is pretty darn good. If I mix my own my costs plummet to roughly twenty cents per day. The authors of this study are obviously not aware of the vast array of vape gear out there and the actual real world costs that vapers are enjoying.

  3. Canadian Vaper Canadian Vaper Canada says:

    While for anyone using refillable gear it will be considerably cheaper than smoking, it only does cost me a few dollars a month, despite some scientists and doctors being anti-vape there's one thing everyone agrees on and that is that vaping is much safer than smoking, so even if it were more expensive does it matter since it is less of a health risk?

    It's like saying I can get a bag of chips for a dollar or a pear, apple and a banana for 1.05$ Which is the better choice?

  4. Melody Chard Melody Chard Canada says:

    I guess no one ever showed them how to shop for the best prices.  Most people start with very affordable starter kits and they last a long long time.  If they decide to continue vaping, they will most likely buy a newer generation mod, but they last forever as well.  After the initial outlay for the device, the rest is so inexpensive its laughable! I don't know where people come up with such nonsense as this "story" tries to sell, but I'm not buying it! I am a smart shopper! I smoked 2 packs a day and at that time ciggies cost $10.50 per$20 per day. I have been vaping for the last 7 years. Vaping costs me $30 - $40 per month!!  Thats a $560 a month savings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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