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Is the Nigerian market ready for vaping and e-cigarettes?

E-cig vaping in Nigeria, Richmond Okezie

If you follow market developments in the US and the globe, you will have noticed the controversy surrounding Vaping in recent times, with the US congress imposing sanctions on the sale of e-cigarettes forcing some US e-cigarettes companies to look towards the international market for expansion to offset the losses in the US market, but the international market has been even less responsive. A typical example is the US e-cigarette company Juul being kicked off the market in China last fall after just four days, the company further abandoned plans for the India market after India placed a ban on e-cigarettes. Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and many more countries have followed suit. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Africa is next!

Just how prepared is the Nigerian Market? Will the Nigerian government follow the steps of other countries and restrict or place an outright ban on the sale of e-cigarettes? Small vaping retailers are springing up here and there in Lagos and Abuja, signifying that Nigerians are gradually picking interest in vaping. Do these retailers obtain any form of licencing or approval before selling these things to the public? Haha, they do not. But to truly predict what the government response will be to this, let us look at the cigarette market in Nigeria.

Cigarattes are some of the highest selling consumer product in the west, and more so in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria inclusive. According to a study published in BMC Public Health , one out of ten Nigerians still smokes daily. Considering that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, it has one of the leading tobacco markets in Africa, with over 18 billion cigarettes sold annually costing Nigerians over $931million, according to the same study. Can you beat that? The tobacco market in Nigeria is worth $1billion annually. Thousands die annually in tobacco-related deaths and the government effort to curb the consumption and marketing of tobacco has been nothing to write home about. So, two facts, policy makers and tobacco companies in Nigeria benefit from the $1b industry, and Nigeria is generally slow to make and enforce regulations.

With the above facts in mind, we can predict that if major players in the vaping business picks interest in the Nigerian market, they will be met with more resistance from cigarette companies benefitting from the tobacco business, than the government. This resistance would stem from the threat vaping will pose to the consumption of cigarette in Nigeria, but it may not be enough to significantly hamper their operation. The only thing that can effectively prevent the rise of vaping in Nigeria is government regulation, and this is inherently not effective – it is slow to come into effect, and even slower to enforce. But what if existing cigarette companies diversify into vaping? Well, do they really need to? They are doing okay presently, and such move might end up hurting their brand more in the long-run.

To retailers and entrepreneurs out there eyeing the market, I will advise you to thread with caution. Government policy is a huge threat to doing business in Nigeria, ask Gokada and the rest. Vaping is a dicey area and very unpredictable, so you don’t want to put money in this now, unless you have much cash to burn.

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