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Home Features & interviews (Op-ed) The menthol ban can’t be lost amid COVID-19 chaos

(Op-ed) The menthol ban can’t be lost amid COVID-19 chaos

April 6, 2020

Photo: iStock

Every Thursday at 8pm, like millions of others, I leave the house and clap and whoop for the NHS – it’s an unprecedented, unified outburst of thanks to those working to keep people just like us, like our aunties, siblings and friends, alive.

I am, like many others, also in awe of those retailers who are keeping shelves full during the lockdown. Convenience stores really have become a fourth emergency service of late (much more useful than the actual fourth emergency service – the coastguard – to a confirmed land lubber like me).

Yet, while I have high praise for these businesses, I also have a warning: no matter the crisis, time nonetheless ticks on. There’s now just 30 days until the menthol ban arrives and thanks to social distancing measures stymying traditional customer service and the lockdown keeping away supportive sales reps, businesses face a bigger challenge than they expected.

Luckily reports suggest sales reps are stepping up, giving remote support and reminders to retailers via phonecalls, emails and even on WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, as we reveal this week, VApril has moved online offering help to smokers to make the leap to a 95 percent less harmful nicotine-delivery option.

And then there are all the websites suppliers had invested in even before coronavirus took over the world: jtiadvance.co.uk, imperial-ignite.co.uk and PMI’s menthol-ban.co.uk.

In short, there is help out there for businesses of all kinds if they want to take it.

So, while the need to battle food and loo roll shortages are understandably the top priority for stores – I’d urge you to spend some time talking to your staff about the ban, reaching out to suppliers and making sure you’ve got plans in place to transition smoothly into a post-menthol market.

After all, many stores will see 30 or 40 percent of tobacco SKUs suddenly disappear in a month’s time and the last thing retailers need is another moment of chaos.