Coronavirus Creates Worldwide Shortage of Vaping Products


The COVID-19 pandemic has taught people around the world a difficult lesson about what can potentially happen when you depend on one nation to produce the bulk of the raw materials and finished goods that feed a global economy. Nowhere are the economic results of the coronavirus outbreak felt more keenly than in the vaping industry, which obtains almost all of its hardware from factories in Shenzhen, China. 

Around 1,000 factories in Shenzhen make roughly 90 percent of the world’s vape gear, and the full supply chain in China – ranging from couriers to factories producing raw materials – is much larger. With the entire worldwide vaping industry completely dependent on Shenzhen to produce its products, distributors, retailers and consumers everywhere are reporting product shortages.

Shenzhen Factories Struggle to Resume Operations After Chinese New Year

The COVID-19 outbreak occurred at the worst possible time in that it happened during the Chinese New Year celebration. During the festivities, many migrant workers employed by factories in Shenzhen travelled to their rural homes to enjoy the time with their families. 

Chinese vaping factories advise their customers to stock up before the new year celebration because, for a period of about two weeks, those factories either operate at reduced capacity or shut down entirely.

When the festivities concluded, however, many vaping factories found it difficult to ramp operations back up because workers have been unable to return to Shenzhen. Some have become sick, and others have been unable to travel due to lockdowns and mandatory quarantines. 

As factories have ramped their production back up, some have found that they have insufficient resources in key positions and have had to train workers from other departments to occupy those positions, further delaying those factories’ attempts to get back up to speed.

Coronavirus Stifles Flow of Finished Goods From China

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the movement of finished goods from China – particularly goods that move by sea. Of the world’s 10 busiest ports for container shipping, seven of those ports are in China – and none of them are operating at full capacity. 

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in several factors that have combined to stifle China’s shipping output.

  • Dock workers are in short supply, so loading and unloading ships is taking longer than usual.
  • Ships requiring maintenance and repairs are stuck at ports and unusable because no workers are available to perform the work. More than 200 ships are under repair in China and will be delivered late.
  • Some nations are refusing to allow Chinese-based ships to dock until their crews have been declared virus free. That has resulted in some ships idling offshore around the world, unable to deliver their goods.
  • Due to reduced demand, many Chinese-based container ship operators have cut the number of outbound sailings. Companies based outside China have cut the number of China-bound sailings. In all, more than 50 container ship sailings had been cancelled around the world as of mid-February.
  • Cargo traveling by air, road and rail throughout and outside China has been similarly disrupted.

Reduced Capacity at Shenzhen Vaping Factories Comes at the Worst Possible Time

For businesses in the vaping industry, the coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at a worse time. In the United States, the vaping industry spent the second half of 2019 trying to recover from worldwide panic stemming from a vaping-related lung illness that sickened more than 2,000 people and killed dozens. The illness was a form of lipoid pneumonia caused by inhaling oils such as Vitamin E added to black-market THC vaping cartridges as diluents. 

While THC vaping – not nicotine vaping – caused the illness, media outlets around the world treated the two forms of vaping as if they were the same. The lack of proper journalism – and overall media bias against vaping – led to the incorrect public perception that vaping is no safer – or even less safe – than smoking. That false perception has led to reduced demand for vaping products and has discouraged smokers who might have otherwise switched to vaping.

What Does the Coronavirus Outbreak Mean for Vapers?

If you vape, the coronavirus outbreak is highly likely to affect your ability to buy vaping hardware. Businesses in the vaping industry know that the standard protocol is to obtain as much stock as possible ahead of the Chinese New Year because factory production slows during the festivities. Supplies of those products, however, are beginning to dwindle – and since COVID-19 had already slowed factory production before the Chinese New Year, some vaping distributors and retailers were unable to stock up at all.

The COVID-19 pandemic primarily affects the availability of vaping hardware. Most of the world’s e-liquid supply comes from nations other than China – mainly the United States and the United Kingdom – and, while shipping delays are occurring around the world, your ability to buy e-liquid shouldn’t be affected at this time.

Many people are reporting, however, that vaping hardware – mainly consumable products such as atomizer coils and refillable pods – is becoming difficult to find. The more popular a product is, the more strained that product’s supply has become. Reddit is filled with reports of people saying that certain pods and coils are out of stock seemingly everywhere. 

If you’re unable to find supplies for your vaping setup, this might be an excellent time to reduce your reliance on supply chains and learn how to build your own coils. Vape shops still have plenty of rebuildable atomizers in stock, and you won’t have difficulty finding wire or cotton. 

Alternatively, you could buy a tank or pod system that’s less popular than the one you’re currently using. If you do that, though, you should buy plenty of replacement pods or coils in advance. You wouldn’t want to run out of your initial supply of coils only to find that you’re once again unable to buy replacements. There are so many moving parts involved in getting consumer products from China to the rest of the world that it is impossible to predict when vaping hardware will become easier to buy.

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