The reports of deaths, as well as illness, relating to vaping that are coming over from the US are startling to say the least. However, vaping product suppliers trading here in the UK are keen to reassure vapers and retailers that the products causing the problems in the US are black market/counterfeit THC vaping products THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the main active ingredient in cannabis.

John Taylor, chief marketing officer at Vape Dinner Lady, says that initially there was some concern fuelled by the media coverage, but the fact that Public Health England has publicly re-iterated its view that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes has helped.

John Patterson, sales director of JUUL Labs UK, adds: "Ingredients such as THC, any compound derived from cannabis, or vitamin E compounds like those found in THC products are illegal under EUTPD2 and are not permitted for sale in the UK or EU member states.

"Vaping is not without risk but Public Health England has maintained that vaping is still at least 95% less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. The harm reduction potential of vaping versus smoking is also acknowledged by a variety of health bodies, charities and academics including NHS Scotland, The Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)."

He also adds that the UK vaping category is regulated under the European Union Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD2), which has strict guidelines on standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refills, in addition to restricting nicotine strengths and volumes of nicotine-containing e-liquid in refills. Restrictions are also in place on advertising and promotions of vaping products.

Taylor at Vape Dinner Lady says they manufacture e-liquids in line with rigid guidelines from the UK government’s MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency). "We adhere to strict quality controls and use only EU- compliant ingredients to safeguard the health of our consumers," he explains.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for BAT says that following headlines reporting cases of serious illness and deaths linked to vaping in the US, there is undoubtedly a need to focus on the safety and quality of vaping products, but it is important to understand that these cases, while tragic, have not been reported in the UK.

"Consumer safety is at the heart of our Vype products. We don’t just out-source production, we oversee the full supply chain, from manufacturing to market, for our e-liquids and devices, which undergo thousands of hours of testing before they reach adult consumers.

"This robust and rigorous testing is all done here, in the UK. In fact, we are the only major vaping manufacturer with a dedicated UK research and development facility in Southampton, where 50 of our scientists test all of the ingredients in, and emissions from, our products to test their suitability for vaping. Once in the hands of consumers, we also have a UK-based call centre to support consumer enquiries."

On the rise

Duncan Cunningham, UK corporate affairs director at Imperial Tobacco and blu, says that vaping is on the rise. "According to the latest findings from ASH, 2019 saw the number of vapers in the UK rise to an estimated 3.6million, an increase of 12.5% from 2018.

"As interest in vaping increases, the UK market is expected to grow from about £1.1bn to £1.7bn in the next five years."

And he adds that this time of year, when many people make changes to their lifestyle, presents a massive opportunity for retailers catering for smokers who are looking to switch to better alternatives like vaping. "With 40% of the 7.2m smokers in the UK having never tried vaping (ASH) and a growing range of products on offer, retailers have a huge opportunity to play a crucial role in helping these consumers switch to vaping."

Cunningham says pod-mod systems like myblu have become increasingly popular thanks to their ease of use and flexibility. "The myblu device is a high-performance vaporiser, with just 20 minutes charge time and hassle-free Liquidpods that allow consumers to switch between flavours in seconds via an easy one-step ’click and go’ system."

He says retailers should also consider stocking a broad range of flavours and strengths. "Market insights have shown that adult smokers need to experience different flavours before moving from tobacco to vaping permanently. The myblu range comes in a wide variety of flavours and strengths to cater to all tastes."

Meanwhile, Vape Dinner Lady is currently enjoying great success with its pre-filled and pre-charged disposable e-cigarette, which is ready to use straight out of the box.

At the time of its launch last autumn Taylor described it as a ’game changer’ and said feedback from consumer trials had been overwhelmingly positive, thanks to the product’s use of award-winning flavours, the look and feel of the device and the attractive £5.99 price point.

"As the overall number of UK smokers continues to fall, and the vape market becomes more mainstream, we expect consumers will seek out closed-system vape solutions that are more convenient, enabling them to vape, ’straight out of the packet’," says Taylor.

The disposable pod launched with Lemon Tart, Blue Menthol and Smooth Tobacco flavours but Taylor says it has been so popular that they are shortly adding a new flavour to the range.

As for trends, Taylor believes that CBD is likely to become more mainstream in 2020 and the available range of products containing CBD, more diverse. "Commercial success will rely upon providing a comprehensive range of high-quality CBD products," he says, adding that Vape Dinner Lady’s CBD range recently won four International Awards at the Las Vegas Expo.

Neil Joyce, head of marketing at The Electronic Cigarette Company (TECC), agrees that CBD products are growing in popularity. He says: "Ensure you select a brand with third-party certification to verify its ingredients. Otium premium vape liquid provides this reassurance."

He says TECC’s range of Titus and Urban Chase e-liquids in 10ml size continue to be popular with forecourt customers who enjoy the wide range of flavours that are available. As for merchandising he says the game changer for TECC was its development of a self-service, floor-standing display unit: " Products sold on the retail floor in a self-service solution have proven time and time again to sell in significantly greater volumes versus products sold in a traditional tobacco gantry."

Menthol ban

In the traditional tobacco sector, the big news is the ban on flavoured tobacco products, which comes into force on May 20. These products started to be phased out back in 2016 but their total ban comes into effect in just a few months’ time.

According to Imperial Tobacco estimates, menthol and crushball sales are collectively worth 26% of the total UK tobacco market, which means retailers need to be prepared to avoid missing out on sales.

Says Cunningham: "Experience tells us that consumer awareness of tobacco legislation tends to be relatively low until it hits the shelves and they can’t buy product they want, so talking to consumers ahead of the ban is important. Retailers can raise awareness of the menthol ban and encourage customers to consider what alternative products will be available to them after May 20. As well as providing great customer service, having conversations with shoppers ahead of time will help retailers gain valuable insights into what action they should take once the ban is in effect. For some, this may mean simply moving into other traditional tobacco alternatives, while other menthol consumers may use the ban as an opportunity to explore other ways to stick with their flavour preference and move into vaping."

He advises retailers to have a strong range of menthol e-liquid flavours on offer: "Regardless of the ban, the top-selling blu e-liquid flavour is menthol, so these variants are already very popular within the vaping category."

As another alternative he points to the Rizla Flavour Infusions range which includes two variants of 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 sold on their own remain unaffected by the menthol ban so products such as our Rizla Crushball filter tips present another great option for these shoppers."

Finally, Alastair Williams, country director at Scandinavian Tobacco Group UK, says his company will have "some exciting news" on the menthol subject in the coming months, which he thinks will perhaps offer smokers the most attractive alternative of all. "Forecourt retailers should watch this space as it’s absolutely key that they don’t lose their menthol cigarette customers," he says.

Commitment to innovation

BAT’s Vype ePod follows Vype’s hugely successful ePen 3, winner of the 2019 Product of the Year award in the e-cigarette category. The ePod device is compact-sized with magnetic cartridges that come in five nicotine salt vPro flavours (including Garden Strawberry, Chilled Mint and Tropical Mango), containing pharmaceutical-grade nicotine and food-grade flavourings.
The device is CE certified and complies with all relevant local safety regulation.
The closed pod mod system cartridges are sealed and therefore tamper-proof and built to prevent contamination.
BAT says this product is the latest in a long line of innovation, using quiet puff-activated technology, which delivers around 275 puffs per cartridge and a powerful all-day battery.
The company says the launch of the Vype ePod signals its commitment to innovation. A spokesperson explains: "Over the past six years, we have invested over £2bn in the development of best-in-class vaping products, and the alternative nicotine product category in general. As we look to 2020, it is our belief that it will be high-quality, innovative vapour products that will drive the category forward, and consumer safety must be at the heart of this trend.
"Retailers across the country have a key role to play in communicating this message to consumers. We are proud to work with a network of retailers across the UK and we encourage them to invest in high-quality and innovative products like Vype, ensuring that they can offer adult smokers and nicotine users the vapour products they deserve."

An infusion of flavour

Imperial Tobacco hopes that its new Rizla Flavour Infusions will help retailers protect their sales ahead of the menthol ban in May. Rizla Flavour Infusions comprise flavour cards that can be used to mentholate traditional factory-made cigarettes or roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco products. The range includes two different variants: Menthol Chill which provides a stronger, more intense flavour; and Fresh Mint which is slightly smoother and more mellow.
Described as "incredibly easy to use", smokers simply insert a flavour card into a packet of cigarettes or RYO tobacco and wait at least 60 minutes for the contents to mentholate, or leave it in longer for a stronger, more intense flavour.
The cards are packed and wrapped separately, allowing retailers to sell them individually at an rrp of just 25p each.
Chris Street, market manager UK at Imperial Tobacco, says: "When the menthol ban arrives in May, many adult smokers will be left without their flavour of choice. This revolutionary new proposition will allow these shoppers to discover a whole new way to flavour their tobacco products with Rizla Flavour Infusions."
And, as a tobacco accessory, the new Rizla Flavour Infusions don’t need to be hidden from the sight of shoppers, so Street recommends stocking them at the till point or on an open gantry. "As well as drawing the attention of shoppers to the new range, this will help encourage conversations with them about the forthcoming menthol ban to raise awareness of the changes to come and help retailers prepare their range," he says.

Lambert & Butler rolls out tobacco

The Lambert & Butler brand is moving into the roll your own (RYO) sector to help retailers take advantage of the growing value-for-money trend and rising demand for economy RYO products from trusted cigarette brands.
Available now in both 30g and 50g formats and priced at just £11 and £18.15 (rrps) respectively, brand owner Imperial says the new Lambert & Butler RYO blend offers premium quality at an economy price point. Its blend benefits from reduced moisture levels to make it easier to roll, which has apparently proved exceptionally popular with consumers during testing.
The Lambert & Butler brand was first launched in 1838 and has grown its share through sales of its factory-made cigarettes and now accounts for 4% of the total market (HBT data). Today, the brand awareness of Lambert & Butler is at an impressive 51% (HBT), highlighting the popularity of the range within the UK.
While the move into RYO is a first for the brand, Imperial says the high consumer awareness of Lambert & Butler combined with the premium quality product and economy price point, makes this new variant a ’must- stock’ for retailers.
Chris Street, market manager UK at Imperial Tobacco, says: "While offering great value for money is crucial, many consumers making the move into RYO are looking for reassurance on quality by buying products from well-known brands they can trust.
"With its strong tobacco heritage and brand recognition, Lambert & Butler is well placed to respond to this trend with its new RYO variant."