A third of all menthol smokers are likely to switch to a new alternative following the ban on menthol cigarettes, new research by Populus, commissioned by Philip Morris Limited (PML), can reveal.

Over 500 menthol smokers took part in the research, held before the ban came into force on 20th May, which asked a series of questions to gauge how they were likely to respond after the ban.

When asked what action they would take after the ban, a third of respondents indicated that it was ‘likely’ they would switch to an alternative, like menthol heated tobacco products or menthol flavoured vapes – both unaffected by the ban. This would mean roughly 420,000 smokers switching overnight, signalling the biggest increase in smokers switching to alternatives since 2015.

Of the smokers likely to try a new menthol alternative, over half (51%) are likely to purchase these from vape specialists. Many respondents are also likely to make their purchases from supermarkets (46%) and online retailers (43%). Just under a third (32%) indicated that they would purchase an alternative at a local independent retailer.

The Populus research also found that over a quarter (26%) remained unaware of the impending ban. Of those aware, the majority (41%) were informed of the ban by a friend or relative and only 22% were made aware when visiting a shop.

Kate O’Dowd, Head of Field Force at Philip Morris Limited, said: “The ban on menthol cigarettes is a significant moment for many retailers with thousands of menthol smokers looking to switch to a better alternative if they’re unable to quit cigarettes altogether.

“To meet demand, retailers must be ready to offer their customers a wide range of alternatives, including menthol flavoured vapes and menthol heated tobacco products, which are unaffected by the ban.”

BAT UK is launching a range of new menthol vaping flavours and starter kits for its Vype brand. Designed for smokers of menthol tobacco products, the expansion of BAT UK’s portfolio will offer the 23% (Nielsen) of smokers who will be without their preferred product a viable menthol alternative.

BAT UK’s new menthol portfolio includes Peppermint Tobacco, Just Mint and Creamy Mint flavours. These add to the Crisp Mint – Vype’s bestselling flavour – Chilled Mint and Crushed Mint products already enjoyed by vapers. Alongside the launch of new flavours, BAT UK is also bringing to market limited edition Vype ePen 3 and Vype ePod starter kits for smokers who want to use the menthol ban as an opportunity to switch.

Flavours play an increasingly important role for adult smokers in switching from cigarettes to vaping.

For adult smokers seeking to continue using conventional cigarettes, BAT UK has been innovating across its Pall Mall, Vogue and Rothmans brands to replace menthol cigarettes. The new portfolio now more closely mirrors the experience of smoking a menthol cigarette, with new blends, an innovative tube filter and new formats across the range, providing meaningful differentiation for adult smokers who previously preferred menthol.

BAT UK’s portfolio reflects its commitment to build A Better Tomorrow by reducing the health impact of its business through offering a greater choice of enjoyable and less risky products for consumers. Fredrik Svensson, BAT UK & Ireland General Manager, said: “The ban on menthol cigarettes inevitably leaves many adult smokers without their preferred product. That’s why it’s crucial that we are able to accommodate those looking for alternatives, particularly consumers who see the ban as an opportunity to make the switch to vaping.

“Our expanded portfolio means we can offer UK nicotine users a variety of alternatives developed and tested to suit their tastes and preferences, and we want menthol smokers to know that our award-winning alternatives are out there now.

“This evolution offers a significant sales opportunity for retailers who are prepared and react. BAT UK hopes all these new innovations will continue to help our retailers to thrive.”

Duncan Cunningham, UK Corporate Affairs Director at Imperial Tobacco & blu, comments: “The impact of Covid-19 is being felt throughout the industry and we appreciate the challenges this presents for our trade customers operating under such difficult conditions. The stories of community support being offered by the exceptional wholesalers and retailers within our industry as they go above and beyond to maintain their essential service to consumers nationwide are outstanding.”

The health and welfare of employees and business partners is Imperial’s top priority, according to Cunningham.

“We have worked hard to put plans in place to minimise the risks of disruption to our business and the service received by our customers and our sales force continues to maintain close contact with our retailer base,” he adds. “Given the fast-paced nature of developments relating to Covid-19, you will not be surprised to learn that we continue to keep these plans under constant review given the evolving situation. We encourage any of our trade customers requiring further information or advice regarding supply to their business to speak to their dedicated sales rep.”

Overall, vaping is on the rise. This is driven by a range of factors, from the availability of easier to use products such as myblu’s pod-mod device to increasing numbers of consumers who are looking to switch to better alternatives like vaping.

According to the latest findings from ASH, 2019 saw the number of vapers in the UK rise to an estimated 3.6 million, 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 5 years (2019-2025) (Ecigintelligence).

As the vape market continues to grow, 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.

myblu now has an Intense Starter Kit which features the popular pod-mod vape device and USB charger, along with 2 x Intense Liquidpods, at an RRP of £19.99. The Intense Liquidpods within the kit include both Menthol and Golden Tobacco variants, two of myblu’s best-selling e-liquid flavours.

myblu Intense Liquidpods featuring Nicotine Salts (nicsalts) allow nicotine to be absorbed into the body faster than normal e-liquids. This rapid absorption of nicotine allows myblu Intense to more closely replicate the experience of smoking a cigarette, appealing to adult smokers looking to switch for the first time, or those who have tried vaping in the past and haven’t been completely convinced.

“Wholesalers should consider stocking a broad range of flavours and strengths to allow retailers to cater for their individual customer base,” suggests Cunningham. “Market insights have shown that adult smokers need to experience different flavours before moving from tobacco to vaping.”

Whilst menthol flavours are some of the most popular amongst vapers, research has shown that fruity flavours are growing in demand. To satisfy this demand, the myblu range also includes variants of menthol-based flavours that combine fruity elements such as Blue Ice, which has hints of blueberry and fruity blends like Eucalyptus Lemon, which combines sour lemon with the cool mint tones of eucalyptus, and Strawberry Mint. “Every depot is different so it’s important for wholesalers to consider what products are proving popular with customers, alongside the latest trends, to assess the right range for them,” advises Cunningham. “There is a huge variety of devices and liquids available on the market today, so for retailers that are new to the category, deciding what to stock can be a daunting task. Wholesalers are therefore in an excellent position to provide advice to retailers on what products they should be stocking, as well as offering important reassurances on key areas like quality.”

By being informed about the vaping market and familiarising themselves and their staff with the different products, terminologies and market trends, wholesalers can provide much needed guidance to retailers about what consumers are buying.

With the withdrawal of menthol, over one million adult smokers will be unable to purchase their usual tobacco product.

John Patterson, JUUL Labs UK Sales Director, comments: “Clearly the ideal situation for smokers would be to quit entirely as tobacco related diseases are responsible for almost 96,000 deaths in the UK every year – on average one every six minutes. However, for adult smokers who cannot or will not cease using nicotine, having access to alternatives to combustible cigarettes and accurate information about those alternatives is critical. Therefore, it is imperative that retailers offer alternatives to cigarettes in the ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) category to preserve footfall and mitigate the potential loss of sales.”

Closed pod devices, such as JUUL, are driving over 80% of ENDS category growth (IRI) because they are simple to operate, require little upkeep, are convenient and offer a range of options for adult smokers looking to transition away from cigarettes.

JUUL Labs has launched a new Menthol JUULpod as an additional flavour to add to its range and is available in 18mg/ml nicotine strength. 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,” adds Patterson. “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.”

Many retailers have been proactive, looked at consumer trends and have got ahead of the curve by investing in the category and upweighting its share of space.

JUUL Labs and the ENDS category exist to help end the era of combustible cigarettes, a company statement said. As combustible cigarettes remain the leading cause of preventable death around the world, this goal is critical, and ENDS can play a pivotal role in achieving that goal.

At JUUL Labs, scientific research is vitally important, and the company is committed to expanding the body of knowledge around ENDS products.

Following its successful introduction into the grocery channel last year, Logic has announced it will be significantly expanding distribution of its Logic Compact Intense range into the independent and wholesale channels.

Recognising the growing popularity for nicotine salt e-liquids in the market, JTI has designed a range of flavour pods with nicotine salts to meet consumer demand, as vapers become more experimental in their vaping choices. The range will be available in 18mg and five unique flavours; Amber Tobacco, Peppermint, Berry Ripple, Banoffee and Chai Latte. The new e-liquids offer a smoother and more intense flavour delivery.

The pods will be compatible with the popular Logic Compact device and will join the Logic brand which was worth £27 million in the last year in traditional retail, with growth of 34% year-on-year (IRI).

Nick Geens, Head of Reduced Risk Products at JTI UK, comments: “We’re pleased to introduce the range of nicotine salt flavour pods into the independent and convenience channels to extend and develop our Logic portfolio. We are continuing to innovate to ensure we meet the needs of existing adult vapers, and the Intense range offers a great profit opportunity for retailers catering to those customers looking for an enriched vaping experience.”

JTI also announced that its Logic EPIQ range will be expanding to include nicotine salts and 70/30 e-liquids for a more enhanced vaping experience.

With an RRP of £2.99, the new formats will be rolling out across wholesale and independent channels to tap into the growing demand for high quality e-liquids at an affordable price point.

The Logic EPIQ nicotine salts range (18mg/ml) offers a smoother and more intense flavour delivery in a variety of flavours including; Amber Tobacco, Peppermint, Berry Mint and Forest Fruits. The 70/30 e-liquid range (3mg/ml) offers advance vapers who regularly use MOD devices and seek a bigger vapour plume a higher VG proposition. With flavours including; Coconut Macaroon, Mint Royale, Berry Crumble and Cherry Apple, these extensions offer vapers more choice than ever before.

Nick Geens comments: “The new additions to the Logic EPIQ range offer more choice for existing adult vapers and smokers who might be looking for a range of new alternatives with the upcoming Menthol and Capsule cigarette ban. Alongside this, value e-liquids continue to grow in popularity (Nielsen), therefore we’ve expanded our range to offer a more enhanced experience as vapers become more experimental in their choices.”

Vape Dinner Lady launched three Disposable Vape E-Cigarettes in September 2019, designed for convenience and equivalent (in puffs) to a pack of 20 cigarettes, they were pre-charged and pre-filled, ready to vape straight out of the box. With a focus on delivering a superior vape experience, the three launch flavours of Lemon Tart, Blue Menthol and Smooth Tobacco have proven so popular that May 2020 saw the launch of three more flavours in this competitively produced disposable kit: Fresh Menthol, Pink Berry and Mango Ice.

Providing store support is a necessary part of selling into the retail channel. In addition to education and guidance, Vape Dinner Lady can provide an extensive range of colourful and attractive point of sale collateral such as posters and floor vinyls, through to point of sales devices such as counter display units, secure counter top units and free standing display units with integrated education panels to help guide customers new to vaping.

John Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer of Vape Dinner Lady, comments: “To maximise sales, wholesalers and retailers need to engage with their smoking and vaping customers, provide a good selection of reputable branded products, and ensure that they maintain a focus on quality. Providing clarity on in-store location and the suitability of different devices and e-liquids is crucial, and for those products requiring replacement parts such as coils and glass bulbs, ensure that you stock a selection of suitable parts with good brand recognition.”

Simon Manthorpe, CEO of Vapemate, has discussed how vaping is an efficient quitting aid for those prompted by the ban on menthol products. “The ban on menthol and roll-ups will have a huge affect on smokers who find these alternatives to be cheaper than the traditional cigarettes,” he says. “In particular, those in low paid jobs that have a noticeable culture of smoking, such as hospitality, will be hit heavily by this move.

Nonetheless, this presents a great opportunity for smokers who want to kick the habit. We’d never endorse vaping for those who do not smoke – but from our own experiences and the fact that Public Health England stipulate that vaping is 95% safer than cigarette smoking – we believe that vaping is a viable solution for successfully quitting.”

It would seem that more than half of Brits believe the government’s measures to dissuade cigarette smokers from picking up a packet are failing. 54% of Brits stated that the health warnings and plain packaging initiatives on tobacco products are not enough of a disincentive. Public attitude towards e-cigarettes should shift in 2020, making the devices a more viable harm-reduction alternative to smoking. With the help of medical bodies like Public Health England and the NHS, e-cigarettes will be able to deliver on their purpose and dramatically reduce the number of cigarettes smokers worldwide.”

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