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Cost of Cigarettes vs. Smoke Free Alternatives - Search Interest Data Study

We’re all looking for practical ways to save money and reduce expenditure. For adult smokers who are used to keeping an eye on rising cigarette prices, the concept of cost-saving solutions to continued smoking is nothing new. In particular, rising cigarette prices are a growing concern for adult smokers. We carried out research using Google Search Data, and found that as cigarettes increase in price, interest in smoke free alternatives is simultaneously rising. In fact, search growth for smoke-free alternatives is now at an all-time high.

Our data collection and analysis provide insights into what these changes in search behaviour may represent, particularly when it comes to adult smokers’ budgets and approaches to cost-saving. Over the last five years, searches for ‘cost of cigarettes’  have risen by 85%, while searches for the term ‘heated tobacco price’  have increased by a staggering 100% since January of this year. Here’s what else we found.

Search Interest for ‘Cost of Cigarettes’ is Higher Than Ever

Google search data tells us that cost-saving is at the forefront of searchers' minds. Interest in ‘how much does a pack of cigarettes cost’ has grown exponentially, by 130% in the last six months. Another example of this is UK targeted searches for ‘cheapest cigarettes uk’, which has grown by 40% since the beginning of the year.

Cigarette Price Search Trends

Search Term Percentage Increase Period
How much does a pack of cigarettes cost? 100% 6 Months
Cheapest cigarettes UK 40% 9 Months
Cost of cigarettes 85% 5 Years

 

  • Search Spikes around Government Budget Announcements - A key data point is where we see an increase in search for ‘cigarette price’, which peaked in October 2021 as a response to retail price index inflation on tobacco products further to the budget of that year.

  • Interest in ‘Cheapest Cigarette Brand’  Spikes - When we look at data for 2022 alone, searches around pricing are responsible for some of the highest areas of growth. Not only are searchers looking for price information, they also want to know which brands are the cheapest. For instance, ‘what are the cheapest cigarettes uk’ has increased by 50% since January.

Ultimately, searchers want to know how much smoking is going to impact their budget, and now, more than ever, adult smokers are researching how they can switch to more effective solutions rather than continue smoking. So what does smoking currently cost the average adult user each month?

How Much Does it Cost to Smoke Cigarettes? 

The cost of cigarettes usually increases year on year, with the average price of 20 cigarettes being £12.71 in 2022, according to the ONS. Generally, the cost of cigarettes increases with each UK budget. Twelve years before, in 2010, the average pack of cigarettes cost £5.90 – in other words, the price has almost doubled over the course of a decade.*

Smoking a pack of 20 cigarettes every day, at £12.71 per pack, is a cost of £386.6 per month. If you smoke half a pack each day it would cost you £193.30 per month and the cost of smoking 5 a day would be £96.65.**

Cost of Smoke-Free Alternatives Peaks in 2022

As the price of a pack of cigarettes goes up, it’s not surprising then that searches for smoke-free alternatives are not just steadily increasing but are experiencing sizable growth rates.

  • Heated tobacco is experiencing the highest growth within the category - As adult smokers look for more cost-efficient alternatives to smoking, one of the newest smoke-free products is experiencing a surge in interest.
  • ‘Vape Price’  searches rose by 68% in the last year alone - This shows that those adults who might otherwise continue to smoke are becoming more interested to learn about the long-term costs of switching to this smoke-free alternative

Smoke-Free Alternative Search Trends

Search Term Percentage Increase Period
Heated tobacco price 100% 6 Months
Vape price 68% 12 Months

 

So, could these alternatives offer a cost-effective resolution to the price changes associated with smoking?

How Much Does Vaping Cost?

We’ve looked at cigarettes, but with so many options available, just what is the cost of vaping in the UK? In some ways, vaping might not be quite as straightforward as smoking, as there are various products that’ll cost money. There are e-cigarettes that tend to be standalone units not requiring much else other than e-liquid, however some systems also need to have coils, tanks, and more.

Pod Vape vs Refillable Tank Vape Costs

Pod vapes are generally the cheaper of the two vaping systems. They can be an alternative to cigarettes at an affordable price and work well for those who want to start vaping immediately as a replacement to cigarettes. Getting started with a pod system can set you back around £40 which includes the device and pods, and a few more costs will pop up on top of that for batteries and e-liquids.

With a tank-based system, you’ll probably need to replace the tank a couple of times each year. It’s important to replace your e-cigarette coil too, with a pack of three often costing around £5-10 – you’ll probably need around nine of these a year, so that’s £45 (assuming you’re buying at the lower price-point). We can’t forget about batteries either – they don’t need replacing too often, so we can just include one at £10 in our calculations.

As a result, the cost of vaping in the UK is roughly £327 per year depending on what system you choose. Vaping for an entire year is only slightly more expensive than smoking a pack a day for a month.

‘Vape Price’  Searches Overtook Those for ‘Cigarette Price’ for The First Time in 2022

With the recommended retail price of vapes potentially offering a more affordable alternative to cigarettes, for the first time ever, data trends show that searchers are more interested in finding out about the cost of vape devices, including disposable vapes, over cigarettes.

  •  Interest in Vape Costs is 10% Higher Than Cigarettes - A case in point; the data represents this shift in search behaviour.
  • Searches for ‘is vaping expensive’ are now at their highest - Given this term’s emergence in early April 2022, the figures may suggest changes in the ways users are searching for information around cost savings in relation to vape products.

How Much Does Heated Tobacco Cost?

Heated tobacco is another option to look at for those comparing the cost of cigarettes with smoke free alternatives. The recommended retail price of 20 HEETS tobacco sticks is £5, which is less than half the price of an average pack of cigarettes. If you previously smoked a pack of cigarettes each day, and then switched completely to HEETS, you could save £2,814.15* each year. One HEETS stick lasts around the same time – 14 puffs – as a cigarette, so 20 HEETS tobacco sticks can be considered the equivalent consumption of a pack of cigarettes.

So, for those considering the switch to a smoke-free alternative, what do cost savings look like when compared to smoking? Crucially, could switching to a smoke-free option actually be cheaper than smoking?

Save Up to £2,800 By Switching

The best thing any smoker can do is quit. For those that choose not to give up nicotine, but still want to save money, an adult smoker could save up to £2,814.15* a year by switching from smoking cigarettes to vapes, or other smoke-free alternative options - such as heated tobacco products.

Total Saving Saving per Month Saving per week
£2814.15 £234.51 £54.12

 

This is a sizable saving for anyone looking to reduce their spending.

  • This is a sizable saving for anyone looking to reduce their spending. 
  • For those interested to know how the three categories of smoking, vaping and heated tobacco stack up, the price saving all depends on personal usage.

Smoking vs. Vaping vs. Heated Tobacco – Costs Compared

It’s evident that of the three, smoking is the most expensive – just how much do cigarettes cost now? The cost of cigarettes currently averages out at £12.71 for 20, and we can expect that to continue to rise with each budget. *

Using heated tobacco at the same rate as regular cigarettes would potentially halve the cost, going from over £4,000 to under £2,000. Then there’s vaping. As there are

so many bits and pieces involved in vaping, you may find that some months are more expensive than others if a few pieces of equipment all need to be replaced at once, but you could be spending around £300-£400 each year, which is another rather large saving, and potentially 10-15% of the price you’d pay when compared to cigarettes.

However, it’s important to bear in mind that the costs of smoking, vaping and heated tobacco vary depending on usage, so costs will differ from person to person. If you’re interested in heated tobacco, you can try IQOS for 14 days at home, and if you decide to return it at the end of the trial, you won’t be charged.

You can use our savings calculator to work out how much you could save by switching from cigarettes to IQOS. Just enter the amount you pay for a pack of cigarettes and the number of cigarettes you usually smoke in a day and let us do the rest.

Disclaimers

*Assuming average price of cigarettes at £12.71 per pack. Source: ONS dataset. Average price - Cigarettes 20 king size filter, Aug 2022. Link: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/timeseries/czmp

**Assuming average price of cigarettes at £12.71 per pack. Source: ONS dataset. Average price - Cigarettes 20 king size filter, Aug 2022. Savings calculated using IQOS Cost Savings Calculator. Link: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/timeseries/czmp https://www.iqos.com/gb/en/cost-savings-calculator.html

IQOS is not risk-free and provides nicotine, which is addictive. The best decision any adult smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether. IQOS are not alternatives to quitting and are not designed as cessation aids.

Methodology

All data cited reflects search volumes taken from Google Trends and SEMrush. When ‘interest’ is mentioned, we are referring to ‘search interest’, the number or volume of searches for a particular term at a particular time period. Data reflects search trends in the

UK. Search volumes and Google Trends data were collected across August - November 2022.

Google Trends and SEMrush are publicly available and do not have restrictions on commercial use.

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