As it has in every year since its creation, the vaping industry evolved considerably in 2020. The biggest manufacturers in the industry continued to get bigger, but the types of products that they spent the year developing and releasing made it obvious that consumers’ preferences were changing. The famed manufacturer Aspire, for example, didn’t release a single traditional dual-battery box mod in 2020. There simply wasn’t a need for such a device; the previous year’s dual-battery mod worked just fine, and many vapers were beginning to lose interest in such large vaping devices anyway.
So, how else did the vaping industry evolve in 2020? In this year-end retrospective, we’ll discuss the four key changes that shaped the world of vaping over the past year.
The PMTA Deadline Arrived in the United States – And the Vaping Industry Survived
In the United States, the biggest news for vaping in 2020 was the arrival of the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) deadline – which, after multiple delays, finally came on September 9. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration – the agency responsible for regulating vaping – required all manufacturers of vaping hardware or e-liquid to apply for approval to continue selling their products in the U.S. by that date.
Compiling a PMTA is extremely expensive, and many people speculated that most of the companies in the vaping industry would either close for good – or cease doing business in the United States – when the PMTA deadline finally arrived. Many companies did go away at the deadline, but the number of manufacturers that remained was actually much larger than many had initially predicted. Although the U.S. vaping community rightfully mourns the loss of the industry’s smaller manufacturers, consumers still have no shortage of choices when it comes to devices, tanks and e-liquid flavors.
The one significant thing that has changed in the United States since the PMTA deadline is that, while the vaping devices that were available in the U.S. prior to the deadline remain available for the most part, new devices aren’t always making it here from China because those devices technically aren’t legal to sell without marketing orders from the FDA.
The U.S. remains the world’s biggest market for vaping products. However, for the first time, new devices are appearing on the shelves of overseas vape shops like V2 Cigs UK before they appear here. What that means, in effect, is that the tastes of U.S. vapers no longer influence the global vaping industry to the extent that they once did.
Mesh Coils Took Over the Vaping Industry
When vape tanks with mesh coils began to hit the market a couple of years ago, it quickly became fairly obvious that mesh coils were better than traditional wound vape coils in virtually every way. They produced bigger vapor clouds while requiring less power. They operated in near silence and didn’t pop loudly during use as traditional coils often did.
Many industry prognosticators believed that mesh coils would one day become more popular than wound coils. Almost no one, however, expected that to happen as quickly as it did. By the end of 2020, virtually every new vape tank used a mesh coil by default, and virtually every older tank that was still in production had a mesh coil available. As of now, if you can’t find a mesh coil for a particular sub-ohm vape tank, it’s likely that the manufacturer has stopped making coils for that tank entirely.
The Pod Mod Was Born
One of the reasons why manufacturers didn’t put a lot of effort into developing new dual-battery box mods in 2020 is because they were instead developing the new generation of high-end pod systems. More than ever, people are buying pod systems as their first vaping devices. When those people eventually outgrow the capabilities of their first devices and decide to upgrade, they want to stay within the pod vaping paradigm. So, the manufacturers in the vaping industry spent the year developing more advanced pod systems to attract upgraders.
At the end of 2020, high-end pod systems have become so advanced in their capabilities that it’s become difficult to tell how they differ from traditional box mods aside from the fact that they have pods rather than tanks – but even the pods themselves are beginning to look more like tanks than ever.
Some of the features that you’ll find in recent pod mods include mesh coils, variable wattage, adjustable airflow and the ability to replace a device’s coil without discarding the pod. Pod mods typically produce significantly bigger vapor clouds compared to the smaller pod systems marketed to beginning vapers.
The increased vapor production means that the new pod mods are often appropriate for those who prefer the direct-to-lung inhaling style, and it also means that people who upgrade to pod mods often end up reducing the nicotine strength of their e-liquids.
Vape product manufacturers love the pod mod trend. A pod mod is almost always a proprietary system that works only with the pods designed for that device and doesn’t work with any third-party attachments. That’s great for the profitability of the device’s manufacturer.
Nicotine Salt E-Liquid Became a Little Less Relevant
Before 2020, it seemed fairly obvious that nicotine salt e-liquid would eventually become the most popular form of vape juice. That hasn’t happened. If anything, nicotine salt e-liquid actually decreased a bit in relevance this year in the United States – and the new pod mods have a great deal to do with that.
In the U.S., even the lowest-strength nicotine salt e-liquids tend to have nicotine concentrations around 20 mg/ml. If you’re using a new pod mod with an 80-watt power range and a mesh atomizer coil, though, a nicotine strength of 20 mg/ml is far too high – so the people who buy pod mods invariably end up switching to lower-strength freebase nicotine e-liquids.
So, the mass transition to nicotine salt e-liquid didn’t quite happen in 2020 the way some people had envisioned – and it no longer seems as though nicotine salt will end up becoming more popular than standard freebase nicotine e-liquid. The much higher strength of nicotine salt e-liquid, however, will help to keep it the top choice among newer vapers with smaller vaping devices.