Imagine you’re a smoker who wants to switch to vaping for the sake of your health.
You head to your local vape shop eager to start your vaping journey… only to discover a vape device costs 75 TIMES as much as a pack of cigarettes!
Here in the UK, vaping will not only help your health but also save you money compared to smoking. You can get set up with a vape for as little as £10. Assuming you go through 1-2 bottles of e-liquid and 1 coil a week, you’ll probably only pay around £30 a month (or £1 per day) for your vaping habit. This amounts to the cost of just 2 packs of cigarettes – making vaping a much cheaper option!
However, in other countries vaping can be VERY costly.
Here are some of the world’s most expensive places to vape.
The land of Oz has it all – sun, sea, surf and… very high vaping costs! For those living in Australia, where the average hourly wage is around $55 (£25), the cost of vaping products is reasonable in line with average income.
However, if you’re a Brit visiting Australia you’ll likely be shocked at the cost of vaping products compared to what we pay at home. For hardware, expect to pay from $55 (£30) for a starter device and $95 (£52) for an average vape.
When it comes to e-liquid, you’ll spend around $10 (£5.50) for a standard quality 10ml vape juice – which will be nicotine free due to Australia’s ban. If you’re caught vaping nicotine in Australia you can be fined up to $45,000 (£25,000) – making for a very expensive nic hit!
Portugal has the highest e-liquid taxes in all of Europe.
Vape juice containing nicotine is taxed at €0.32 per ml, adding €3.20 per standard bottle PLUS a 23% VAT added on top. All in all, a 10ml bottle of e-liquid in Portugal will cost around €7 and a nic shot costs approx €5.25(!).
These prices may seem steep enough but are even more outrageous considering that Portugal is one of the less well off European countries – below average in terms of GDP per Capita compared to the rest of the continent.
Described as ‘Europe’s Nanny State’ due to its various laws and regulations, Finland takes second place for the continent’s highest vaping tax.
A vape device will set you back at least 20 euros. However, it is the price of vape juice that makes Finland one of the most expensive places to vape.
We asked Vapers Finland about vape prices in the country. They explained that vape juice is restricted to only tobacco flavours and there is a €0.3 per ml tax added to both nicotine and non-nicotine containing varieties. This adds an extra €3 per standard 10ml bottle – raising the standard price to around €9.90.
These high prices, combined with marketing / selling restrictions and negative media coverage has, unfortunately, resulted in only 1-2% of Finns using e-cigarettes.
If you head over to the midwest state of Minnesota, you’ll not only find yourself in ‘The land of 10,000 lakes’ but in the USA’s most expensive place to vape!
Vaping is widespread in the US with an estimated 9% of American adults ‘regularly or occasionally’ vaping. While there is no federal vaping tax, over half of the 50 states have imposed state-wide taxes on vaping products – with the tax rate and prices differing state by state.
Minnesota’s vaping tax is a whopping 95% of the product’s wholesale cost. This tax rate, introduced in 2013, hiked the tax from 35% all the way to 95% and meant retail prices soared. You can now expect to pay an eye watering $20 (£14.50) for a single 10ml bottle of e-liquid.
The impact has been devastating. A 2020 study found that the extra cost this tax added to products meant thousands of Minnesota’s residents either reverted back to smoking or were deterred from quitting in the first place.
In Malawi, vaping is so expensive only the very richest can afford it.
A bit of digging proved this Twitter user correct. The (very) high price of vape products compared to cigarettes in Malawi means the less well off are restricted to smoking.
Chimwemwe Ngoma from Tobacco Harm Reduction Malawi explains:
The cheapest e-cig I have come across costs about USD75 (£55), the price goes higher with the complexity of the gadget. A pack of regular cigarettes cost about a dollar. I would say that the prices of vape products are way higher for an average tobacco smoker living in Malawi. Hence (this is) only affordable to a few elites.
Kenya may take the crown for the world’s highest vaping taxes. The vaping tax implemented in 2017 adds a shocking 3000 shillings (£19.95) to the cost of devices and an extra 2000 shillings (£13.30) to refill cartridges.
Like Malawi, Kenya is another East African country where the cost of vaping far outweighs the cost of smoking. The taxes mentioned are insanely high when compared to the meagre 50 shillings (34p) tax placed on packs of cigarettes.
Why is vaping so expensive in some places?
The retail price of products is directly affected by the wholesale cost (i.e what the seller pays for them). When governments introduce excessive wholesale taxes, this drives up the cost for consumers.
Governments apply taxes to vape products either as a percentage of the wholesale price, as a set cost per ml of e-liquid or, in some cases, both!
In the UK, vaping products are considered a consumer product and so are taxed at 20%. As we’ve seen in this blog, we’re getting off very lightly compared to other countries.
It’s not just taxes that make vaping expensive. Vaping where it’s forbidden can be costly too. Expect to pay the equivalent of thousands of pounds if you vape in a country with bans.
For example, in Singapore where vapes are illegal to sell, use or possess, you can be fined up to £10,000 if you’re caught using an e-cig. And, as we wrote in Worst Places to Vape, the consequences can be far worse than just a fine!
Problems caused by expensive vaping
Decrease in harm reduction
Expensive vape prices can have a devastating impact on harm reduction and ultimately cost lives.
As seen in Minnesota, when vape products are expensive or become more expensive, e-cig users tend to go back to smoking or are deterred from switching to vaping in the first place.
Vaping black markets
As consumers look to avoid higher prices, illegal, unregulated black markets emerge – with potentially dangerous products become more prevalent.
The danger of black markets was demonstrated in 2019 when black market cannabis thickened with Vitamin E Acetate was sold leading to devastating consequences.
More than 500 people in the US were hospitalised and 8 died due to lung conditions initially blamed on vaping. Further investigation found this to be untrue and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) eventually confirmed that the actual cause was a line of contaminated THC cartridges bought from unlicensed dispensaries.
The blaming of these casualties on nicotine vaping caused widespread panic and depicted vaping as dangerous and potentially fatal – further reducing harm reduction efforts.
These adverse effects have caused some governments to rethink their vaping taxes. One example is Estonia. After introducing a vape tax in 2018, the country has temporarily suspended it from 1st April 2021 – 31st Dec 2022 to counteract the black market that emerged after the tax was imposed.