Canadian Cannabis 2.0: Will Vapes Take a Hit?

Jamie Schau

Vaping products – both legal and illicit – are highly popular around the globe. They are particularly popular in the cannabis industry, where vaping has traditionally been seen as a cleaner and more discreet delivery system than smoking but still allows for quick onset unlike, for example, most edible products.

 

However, the US “Vaping Crisis” has since leaked into Canada. As of December 10, 14 cases of severe vape-related lung illness have been reported, dampening vape popularity. The safety of e-cigarette products in general has been called into question, particularly among users who’ve purchased cannabis vapes on questionably-regulated or black markets and have little to no assurance their product isn’t tainted.

 

This outbreak of lung illnesses has driven many consumers to more closely consider the sources of their products and delivery systems, as well as regulatory systems surrounding them; Canadian consumers are no exception. The timing of this extra scrutiny and concern, however, is exceptionally poor for those looking to launch product on Canada’s newly legalized vape market.

 

With the first vapes expected to hit the formal market in mid-December, how will the recent outbreak of lung illnesses play into the roll-out?

 

The Bad News:

  • Following the outbreak of illnesses, the percentage of Canadian cannabis users who see vaping as an unsafe way to consume marijuana rose from 26% to 39%.
  • Among current and recent Canadian vape users, 23% have decreased their use and 20% have stopped using vapes entirely since the “Vaping Crisis” began.
  • Companies in the vape space absolutely must weigh and address consumer concerns about products – ideally prior to launch, which for many is imminent. Despite how it may interrupt launch plans, however, roughly three-fourths of Canadian cannabis users are already aware of the vape-related illnesses and deaths that have taken place and this issue simply cannot be ignored.

 

The Good News:

  • Immediately prior to the “Vaping Crisis”, 17% of Canadian cannabis consumers reported using vapes, versus 39% of U.S. cannabis consumers (where much of the country allows for medical and/or recreational vape use). Though Canada’s market has been suppressed by regulations prohibiting vape use in the past, if its southern neighbor’s experience is any indication, the vape market stands to grow a great deal with the legislative change. Though it’s likely the market will not reach its full pre-crisis potential due to residual safety concerns among consumers, as initial fears subside and legal product becomes available, strong formal market demand for vapes is still expected.

  • In the meantime, market regulation is expected to assuage many concerns about potentially dangerous product content, cushioning the effects of the crisis as well as driving more black-market buyers toward the formal market in search of safe product: Per Brightfield Group consumer data, a whopping 44% of Canadian cannabis users not currently vaping are considering purchasing vape products through formal market channels once available, despite the crisis. 

Though Canadian vape market competitors will need to work to survive in this environment by not only educating consumers and updating messaging, but consistently offering quality product, the market’s potential remains formidable and offers a great opportunity to those willing and able to tap into it.

Last updated: December 15, 2019