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Menthol ban: the industry speaks

May 18, 2020

Photo: iStock

Ahead of this week’s menthol ban, Vape Business speaks to the industry’s biggest names about the ban, how to manage its impact and what the future holds for the vaping and next generation market. 

With the impact of the ban now being felt up and down the country, how do manufacturers and wholesalers view the road ahead? It’s clear that vaping is going to benefit from at least some menthol smokers switching away from combustible tobacco, but how many? And what can stores do to encourage customers towards the vape category?

Over the past few months brands big and small have been keeping an eye on the future – even while dealing with the impact of the coronavirus – making sure their offer is fit for purpose for this new world without menthol cigarettes.

Vape Business has brought together some of the biggest names in the industry to give you a unique insight into the way these companies view the future and how they want to support independent retailers in the months ahead.

What can you do to protect your business? How can these suppliers help? Consider the next three pages a unique roundtable discussion or your own exclusive white paper guide to how the vaping industry sees its future.


Industry stats 

Vape Business collects some of the key numbers in the market

  • 16% growth in unit sales of e-liquids last year
  • 4% – smoking rates in the UK are at an all-time low
  • There were approximately 1.7 million smokers of menthol and crushball sticks as of 20 May.
  • 45% of retailers feel certain they will see customers move into the vape category post-menthol ban.
  • Smokers who quit are 95% more likely to succeed with vape
  • (Pie chart) Top vape flavours in the UK: fruit (30%), menthol (19%), tobacco (22%), other (29%)
  • 23% of smokers will now be looking for alternative menthol products
  • 80% of smokers who use heat not burn for seven days switch from cigarettes completely

Industry Outlook

Nick Geens – head of Logic and reduced risk products, JTI

It’s been a successful year for the vaping category, with a rise in sales across all grocery channels as vaping becomes more popular with consumers. As a brand, Logic has had great success in convenience particularly – with Logic now worth £10 million in the last year, growing 45.2% year on year.

We attribute sales growth to a number of factors – from smokers seeking alternatives to the wide range of products now readily available to vapers. Customers are now spoilt for choice when it comes to devices and flavours, and ordinarily supermarkets are likely to have good stock levels which encourages repeat custom.

Through stocking a full, consolidated range and maintaining good availability, retailers can provide a successful vaping offering to their customers.

Further to this, research has shown that almost a third of existing smokers choose to buy elsewhere if their brand is unavailable, which demonstrates the importance of maintaining availability.


Key point: Offering smokers a wide choice of tobacco alternatives is helping them to switch to vape.

Kate O’Dowd –head of field force, Philip Morris

We’ve now given retailers the opportunity to stock IQOS, a heated tobacco product, and directly sell IQOS Menthol Kits to their customers for the first time. Retailers will first need to register via our Retailer Hub website – menthol-ban-retail.co.uk – if they are not already a member of our HEETWAVE OPEN Platform. After registering to become a stockist, retailers will receive more information on the introductory offers we have available.

With IQOS set to be more widely available in the independent retail channel in the coming months, we would encourage retailers to stock up on HEETS to meet increased demand from their customers. Over half (51%) of menthol smokers said they would consider switching to IQOS when menthol cigarettes are no longer available following the ban.

Key point: Heat-not-burn category is now available for more retailers than ever

Fredrik Svensson – general manager, British American Tobacco

The ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes is going to leave nearly a quarter of smokers across the UK without their preferred cigarette. It is important that we are able to accommodate smokers looking for alternatives, in particular those who see the ban as an opportunity to make the switch to vaping

We know this expansion of our product offering is important to retailers. Nicotine and tobacco consumers are fragmenting – just like in other consumer categories – and want different products in different parts of the country at different times of the day. This evolution offers significant sales opportunities for retailers who are prepared and react ahead of the ban. We have a long and proud history of supplying nicotine products to our trade partners and Vype is the number one seller in traditional retailers. I’m sure these new innovations will continue to help our retailers to thrive.

Key point: The evolution of the category will likely benefit traditional retail stores

John Pattinson – sales director, Juul

With electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), smokers have a choice of flavours and a range of alternative options that may help them transition away from combustible cigarettes. Indeed, Juul Labs and the ENDS category exists to help end the era of combustible cigarettes.

As smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death around the world, this goal is critical, and ENDS can play a pivotal role in achieving it.

We remain committed to working cooperatively with regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to appropriately introduce new products that meet the needs and preferences of a broad range of smokers, while limiting appeal to underage individuals.

As part of JUUL Labs’ commitment to responsible retailing, the company is continuing to invest in its ‘Challenge 25’ age verification policy, providing retailer training, alongside mystery shopping audits.

Key point: Responsible retailing needs to be at the forefront of the store strategies

Doug Mutter – director, VPZ

With vape stores closed it has really left smokers out in the cold as to guidance and advice. We at VPZ are putting a huge amount of effort in ensuring that when stores open back up, we are prepared for a growth in the customers coming to vaping for the first time.

Consumer demand and focus will be on public health, and vaping represents the biggest public health opportunity to help millions of smokers improve their situation. It is vital that retailers use this opportunity to champion vaping for what it is – the best tool we have to combat smoking.

The menthol ban, stronger public awareness of lung health, and the reopening of vape stores has the potential to become a flagship moment on our journey to a smoke-free nation – but only if we see the same commitment from our public health bodies.

Key point: The coronavirus pandemic may create a new push for smokers to switch

Duncan Cunningham
Blu’s Duncan Cunningham offers advice to retailers ahead of a big year for the category

Duncan Cunningham – corporate affairs director, Imperial Tobacco and BLU

While offering a good range of menthol flavour blends is key, offering the right advice is just as important. By taking it back to basics, vape stores can educate customers on the benefits of vaping and guide them through the different products on offer, without overwhelming them with a wealth of information, and help them join the vaping revolution.

Our main focus is on educating retailers and their customers on what changes are afoot and what actions they should take for the ban. We understand the importance of menthol shoppers for convenience stores and will work closely with our retail customers to ensure full availability of all products during the transition period, as well as offering advice on what alternative products are available to menthol shoppers. Any retailers in need of further support or advice should speak to their sales rep.

Key point: Retailers, staff and customers will all need to be better educated in the category

Craig Brown – retail sales director, Filshill

At Filshill we’ve seen our overall turnover in vaping triple in the past year – and it’s still growing.

Our strategy has been to regularly communicate with retailers about the menthol ban and about Track and Trace. My background is with Safeway and Tesco and store managers there have access to assets and we want to make sure that independents get the same help.

In terms of customers, are they likely to want to switch to vape? Are they going to move to another tobacco product? Are things like the inserts going to be a trend? They are all options which will be available to customers.

We’ve tried to make vaping a must-stock category for retailers but there’s been so many products coming out that without a category-wide approach retailers have ended up with products that aren’t selling.

We’ve created a ‘good, better, best’ approach with closed systems, open systems, click and go – from the entry level all the way up to products like JUUL at the higher end, to create a gantry.

Key point: wholesalers are still seeing dramatic growth in the category