Regular old cancer-causing cigarettes are cheaper than electronic cigarettes, in 44 out of 45 countries studied by the American Cancer Society. The ACS found that the cost of cigarettes is lower in most places, despite the fact that they’re still taxed at higher rates than e-cigarettes.
The ACS study sampled prices of combustible cigarettes (in an act of revisionism, regular cigarettes are now called "combustible cigarettes"), disposable e-cigarettes and rechargeable cigarettes (refillable with nicotine liquid) from 45 countries, and found normal cigarettes to be on average half the price of the fancy electronic versions—that is, around $5 vs. $8.50.
The study’s findings go against the story that e-cigarettes take advantage of lower tax duty in order to undercut the old competition.
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.
In this way, the e-cigarette is something like the CD, which came out priced much higher than the vinyl records it sought to replace, despite being cheaper to make.
E-cigarettes are also largely unregulated when compared to combustible cigarettes. Regulation, especially in the form of taxes, could drive the price up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that prices will stay high. Manufacturers could always lower prices and take hit on profits in order to drive sales.
The health effects of e-cigarettes are still debatable. A U.K. study found that they are up to 95% less harmful than combustible cigarettes, and recommends that they be prescribed by the U.K.’s National Health Service to help people quit, but elsewhere, they are seen as gateway drug that could lead people to regular cigarettes.
Perhaps the biggest hope for the eventual end to the smoking epidemic is the simplest. As smoking becomes stigmatized, social acceptance of it may decline enough to make it socially unacceptable.