From May 20, the sale of menthol cigarettes is banned. This ban applies to capsule, click on, click & roll, crushball and dual menthol cigarettes but not to heated tobacco products or e-cigs. This means you need to sell through any remaining stock of menthol cigarettes before May 20 and also advise staff on alternatives to sell to menthol customers.

Such alternatives could include JTI’s ’New Dual’ range (available across Sterling New Dual, Benson & Hedges New Blue Dual, Sovereign New Dual and Benson & Hedges New Dual), which is said to provide smokers with a new distinctive tobacco blend in a dual pack, which includes two sections of 10 cigarettes.

This same ’distinctive’ blend is also available across Sterling New Superkings Green, Benson & Hedges New Superkings Green, Berkeley New Superkings Green and Mayfair New Green. In addition, the new Sovereign Dual range contains a new ’Flow Tech’ centre hole in the filter, which provides further product differentiation within the market.

Stephane Berset, JTI’s marketing vice president, comments: "The upcoming menthol and capsule cigarette ban will mean that adult smokers will be looking for a range of new alternatives. Therefore, we’ve worked to evolve our portfolio to cater to these needs with a raft of pack and filter innovations, distinctive new blends and unique taste alternatives."

JTI also recently launched Sterling Dual Capsule Leaf Wrapped cigarillos, which contain a peppermint capsule that smokers can click to release a menthol flavour. And the company extended its Logic Compact vaping range to include nine menthol flavours, while its Logic EPIQ e-liquids are available in five menthol flavours.

Duncan Cunningham, UK corporate affairs director at Imperial Tobacco and blu, believes some current menthol and crushball smokers may move into roll your own, others may opt for a different variant of the same cigarette brand, while others may switch to vaping. "This shift in consumer purchasing behaviour may present significant sales opportunities for retailers who are prepared for the changes and engage with shoppers. Many adult smokers are brand loyal, especially within factory-made cigarettes. Shoppers that want to continue smoking are likely to keep buying the same cigarette brand and just change to the closest variant to it. By monitoring tobacco sales and talking to customers about the ban, retailers can more effectively advise customers on the most suitable variant for them from their brand of choice."

Cunningham says that for smokers who are keen to stick with minty flavours there are a number of solutions available, including new Rizla Flavour Infusions. These are menthol flavour cards which you insert into a packet of cigarettes or roll-your-own tobacco and wait at least 60 minutes for the contents to ’mentholate’.

"It’s also worth remembering that crushball filter tips, as a stand-alone smoking accessory product, remain unaffected by the menthol ban," he explains, "so products such as our Rizla Polar Blast Crushball filter tips present another great option for these shoppers."

Cunningham believes some menthol consumers may use the ban as an opportunity to move into vaping. "To prepare for this potential influx of ex-menthol smokers into the vaping category, retailers should ensure they stock up on easy-to-use pod mod systems like myblu. Any devices on offer should be supported by a strong range of menthol e-liquids and Liquidpods, especially those including nicsalts like myblu Intense, to help heavier smokers switch. Regardless of the ban, the top-selling blu e-liquid flavour is menthol, so these variants are already very popular within the vaping category and well worth stocking up on."

At JUUL Labs, they have launched a new Menthol flavour JUULpod which joins existing flavours including Glacier Mint, Golden Tobacco and Alpine Berry. A four-pack retails at £10.99.

John Patterson, sales director of JUUL Labs UK, says: "In the UK alone, it is estimated that a quarter of adult smokers currently smoke menthol or crushball cigarettes. We want to provide an alternative to those adult smokers and potentially help them in their journey of transitioning away from combustible cigarettes.

"For retailers, increasing the number of menthol facings in vape display units, and if possible creating a dedicated display of menthol vaping and other nicotine products, will help signpost menthol alternatives for smokers looking to transition into alternatives."

Meanwhile at Philip Morris, the company is, for the first time, giving retailers the chance to stock IQOS its heated tobacco alternative which has a menthol flavour. Kate O’Dowd, head of field force at Philip Morris Ltd in the UK and Ireland, says: "Our research shows that over half (51%) of menthol smokers said they would consider switching to IQOS when menthol cigarettes are no longer available, while 80% of smokers who try IQOS for seven days switch completely from cigarettes. By stocking our IQOS Menthol Kits, retailers have a great opportunity to generate sales, improve their margins and hold onto their menthol customers."

The IQOS Menthol Kits comprise one IQOS 2.4+ device and two packs of menthol tobacco HEETS. Rrp is £39.

IQOS is the result of £6bn-worth of research and development by Philip Morris International (PMI) over the past decade. O’Dowd says it’s not a vape, or a cigarette. "The device heats tobacco rather than burning it. Heated tobacco sticks (known as HEETS) are inserted into the IQOS device which uses state-of-the-art technology and pioneering science to then heat the tobacco to 350°C. By using real tobacco instead of liquid, the device delivers a more familiar and satisfying tobacco experience with no smoke, ash and less smell."

And as IQOS heats tobacco rather than burning it, the levels of harmful chemicals are significantly reduced compared to conventional cigarettes. While not risk free, it generates up to 95% less of the harmful toxins found in cigarette smoke.

IQOS is available in 52 markets around the world. As of December 2019, an estimated 10 million smokers worldwide had stopped smoking and switched to IQOS.

Any retailers wanting to stock IQOS need to register at Philip Morris will then provide all the information they need to understand the product and the benefits for consumers. Retailers must also be willing to stock HEETS to ensure consumers have access to stock from their regular retailer.

Philip Morris is also running a buy-back scheme as part of a package of measures to support retailers through the menthol cigarette ban. Under the scheme, the company will buy back menthol cigarettes once the ban comes into force later this month.

One forecourt chain focused on the menthol ban is GHSL Ltd in Scotland, which includes the award-winning RaceTrack Autoport Services in Glasgow. Retail manager Guna Sud says staff are communicating with customers who are currently buying menthol cigarettes, offering them an alternative and highlighting the key differences between products.

And the company has a lot to communicate, not least of all its own vape brand called Vaped4u.

Guna explains: "Vaped4u is our own brand, designed, created and maintained by the company. We set it up several years ago. We already had brands like Vivid and Nicocig in our stores back then, but their sales were nothing in comparison to what we were being told we could achieve by suppliers. We also set up the brand to ensure our customers had a brand to follow and, with five forecourts across Glasgow, we knew it would help to increase our recognition and reputation."

The company’s stage one refit of its vape area at the RaceTrack site resulted in it removing a one-metre bagged sweet stand and replacing it with a one-metre vape unit. "It was important for us to make sure that this unit was on the shopfloor itself. We wanted to take away the CDUs from the tills, to not only free up the till, but also to put customers at ease," says Guna. "From my experience with customers I found that they are far more relaxed when they are free to browse stock on their own, without having to squint over the till to see what items we have. It is also, in my opinion, quite intimidating for a novice vaper to walk into a vape store, as they feel almost forced to spend, whereas with the unit on the shopfloor customers can browse in their own time."

The change resulted in a large increase in sales so they decided to go a step further and designate a large segment of the store to vaping. "After a lot of planning, we eventually settled on a four-metre vape unit at the front of the shop as you walk in," says Guna. The stands are fully branded and are all backlit with LEDs to make a real impact within the store. This change also paid off with sales up almost 30 times compared to the previous year.

"We became a day-to-day vape store for our customers, stocking all the essentials they require. However, we were constantly being asked by customers to stock more and more of their favourite brands. With a four-metre unit it was hard to do this, and so this led to the creation of This website has been a key sales driver across all of our sites, with customers able to log in and choose products that aren’t stocked within the store, to be delivered to their door or to the store the next day. This has really paid off within some of our smaller stores, where they were unable to carry such a large range. We have seen more and more new faces enter the stores, coming in for their vape essentials after receiving a recommendation from someone else. We have customers driving out to us from Paisley and Falkirk, specifically to buy their vape essentials."

At the Racetrack Autoport site vape and e-liquid sales have surpassed that of traditional tobacco and cigarettes. "Within the tobacco department the breakdown is approximately 65% vape to 35% tobacco, with the main difference being that the e-cig department delivers a margin of around 45-50%."

Guna says a key sales driver has been educating our staff. "We have created a full staff training log that specifically relates to the tobacco department. I have also given staff a starter kit and liquid free of charge in an attempt to get them off cigarettes. For example, we have a manager within the store that used to smoke around £15-worth of cigarettes per day. She is now lucky if she even spends that a week on vaping. She is over the moon with her success and has been off cigarettes for almost a year now. This helps when staff are speaking to customers, as they can talk about the products they have used."

GHSL is now working with other retailers to help them create their own impactful vape displays that can rival other vape shops.

"Depending on their requirements, we offer our expertise and advice. We work with the retailer and their specific requirements," says Guna. "Not all stores can add a 4m unit, some may only have room for 1m. We create a planogram for the specific unit. We will work with the retailer after the stock has been added, making any changes or updates to their offering, should it be required."

new products

JTI’S Logic EPIQ range is expanding to include nicotine salts and 70/30 e-liquids for a more ’enhanced’ vaping experience. The Logic EPIQ nicotine salts range (18mg/ml) offers a smoother and more intense flavour delivery in flavours including Amber Tobacco and Berry Mint.
JTI has added a new three-in-one rolling tobacco variant to its Holborn Yellow brand family. With 30g of tobacco, 100 papers, and 77 filter tips included in each pouch, the new variant aims to provide smokers with the complete kit for a convenient, fuss-free experience. Rrp is £11.70.
According to IRI data, Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s Moments Blue is the UK’s fastest-growing cigar and second best-selling miniature cigar.
Kensitas Club, a brand that is particularly popular in Scotland, has a new three-in-one rolling tobacco. With value roll-your-own tobacco growing 17.5% year-on-year in Scotland (IRI data), JTI says the launch presents an exciting opportunity for Scottish retailers.
The Vype ePod won the award for the best e-cigarette at the 2020 Product of the Year Awards. This is the second consecutive year for Vype following the success of the ePen 3 in 2019.

A Signature move

IRI data reveals that the UK cigar category is worth just under £195m in annual sales with Scandinavian Tobacco Group UK (STG UK) the number one player with a 53% share of total sales, and the two top- performing brands in volume terms.
The latest addition to STG’s Signature range is a filter cigarillo, which comes in a pack of 10 with a low price of just £4.95. Its key product feature is that it has an acetate filter containing a peppermint capsule under a lasered marker. In addition, a carefully selected blend of Virginia tobacco and a light real leaf Ecuadorian wrapper help to deliver a smooth taste.
Alastair Williams, country director at STG UK, says: "The Signature filter cigarillos are the natural extension to the range and perfectly complement the existing Signature Filter Red. The product has been available in both France and Italy for a while and sales in both countries have been very encouraging, which gives us confidence the same will happen in the UK.
"The reason for Signature’s continual success is that it is right on trend. In fact, the key trends in the cigar category have remained pretty consistent over the last few years. First, there is the continued rise in Miniature cigars which now account for over 74% of total sales. Secondly, we have seen for a while now a consistent growth in adult smokers looking for good quality value- for-money propositions."
STG’s range also includes Moments Blue, which is the UK’s fastest-growing cigar and second best-selling miniature cigar, and Henri Wintermans Half Corona, which holds the position as the UK’s favourite medium-to-large cigar.

Six new filters from Swan

Republic Technologies recently unveiled its biggest-ever NPD programme with the introduction of six new Swan filters. The major new product roll-out comprises a carbon paper filter for enhanced filtration, a Swan Long Extra Slim Filter, the most environmentally friendly filter in the UK and three menthol products, including two crushball filters.
The range comprises:
Swan Graphite Filter: a 100% biodegradable filter made with carbon paper to ’deliver the ultimate in filtration’. Rrp is £1.14 (120 per box).
Swan Long Extra Slim Filter: developed to reduce the amount of tobacco required per cigarette (and to be more like a factory-made cigarette), this is the longest ever Swan filter (50% longer than the standard 14mm Extra Slim Filter). Rrp is £1.03 (80 per box).
Swan Eco Loose Filter: 100% biodegradable and said to be the most environmentally friendly filter on the UK market. It degrades three times faster than standard cellulose acetate filters. Rrp is £1.39 (200).
Swan Cool Menthol Filter: this filter is a sister product to the current Swan Menthol Filter. It comprises high- quality cellulose acetate fibres and delivers a cool menthol sensation. Rrp is £1.09 (120 per box).
Swan Cool Burst Crushball Filter: the embedded capsule can be activated at any time to release a cool menthol flavour sensation. These filters contain no animal products. Rrp is £1.29 (54 per pack).
Swan Fresh Burst Crushball Filter: the strong peppermint- flavour capsule can be crushed at any time, giving consumers full control of the taste experience. Rrp is £1.29 (54 per pack).

Smoking and Covid-19

It’s not often that smoking is considered to be a benefit, however a new study suggests that smokers are less likely to catch Covid-19.
Researchers in France have said that ’early data’ suggests smokers make up a disproportionately small number of people who are in hospital with the virus. Scientists at Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris found that a substance in tobacco (possibly nicotine) was helping prevent smokers getting Covid-19. As a result, nicotine patches are going to be tested on coronavirus patients and healthcare workers. However the scientists were keen to stress that people should not start smoking to prevent them from getting the virus. And while nicotine may protect people from getting the virus, smokers who have caught Covid-19 typically develop more serious symptoms because of the damage smoking has done to their lungs.
Publicity surrounding the study has resulted in a big rise in purchases of nicotine patches in France so much so that it has had to suspend online sales and tell chemists to dispense just one month’s worth of patches at a time.