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Planning for Stoptober

September 12, 2023


The imminent launch of Stoptober encourages thousands of smokers to quit the habit, and stores would do well to promote vapes and other less harmful alternatives  

Stoptober – now in its 12th year – aims to empower people to give up smoking during October, as evidence shows people are five times more likely to quit permanently if they can make it to at least 28 days smoke-free. The annual public health campaign provides brands and retailers with a month-long opportunity to promote their reduced-risk alternatives.

Stoptober offers a range of free quitting tools including the NHS Quit Smoking app, Facebook online communities, daily emails and SMS, an online Personal Quit Plan, as well as advice on stop-smoking aids, vaping to quit smoking and free expert support from local stop-smoking services.

The theme for this year’s campaign is “When you stop smoking, good things start to happen”, reminding smokers of the many benefits of quitting. The NHS aims to launch Stoptober around 20 September to give smokers time to prepare for their quit attempt from 1 October.

The campaign is expected to attract more attention this year as the government has announced a swap-to-stop scheme earlier this year, providing up to one million smokers with an e-cigarette starter kit along with support to help quit smoking.

And, coming amidst the many “misleading and inaccurate” mainstream media reports which stop the smokers switching to vapes – the latest ASH Smokefree GB analysis revealed that the number of smokers who wrongly believe that vaping is as or more harmful than smoking has doubled in four years: at 43 per cent now compared with 22 per cent in 2019 – the campaign also offers vape retailers and brands an opportunity to inform smokers that vaping is much less harmful than cigarettes.

Sitting at the heart of their communities, independent stores can particularly play a significant role in furthering the mission of this campaign, which also provides for a great marketing opportunity of their vaping products.

“Stoptober is all about supporting existing adult smokers in transitioning to a less harmful next-generation alternative; therefore, it’s important for retailers to successfully merchandise in a way that appeals to this new adult consumer market,” Chris Aikens, external affairs manager at Relx International, commented.

Most smokers say they want to quit, and latest figures from the Smoking Toolkit Study show more than a third of smokers (37.2 per cent) tried to quit in the last 12 months.

“The best thing any smoker can do is quit smoking and using nicotine products, but the reality is many do not. The UK’s 6.6 million adult smokers [ONS, December 2022] deserve sensible alternatives that move them away from cigarettes, if they don’t quit completely,” Duncan Cunningham, external affairs director at Philip Morris Limited (PML), said.

“With Veeba, we have responded to the immediate need for a smoke-free offer to be commercialised responsibly, and that is sustainable, compliant, and adheres to the highest manufacturing standards and strict quality control measures. We have made Veeba available in retail environments nationwide, with an aim to increase adult smokers’ access to a compliant disposable e-cigarette that we believe can actively contribute to tobacco harm reduction,” he added.

PML recently entered the disposable vape segment in the UK with the launch of Veeba – a premium and recyclable e-vapour product that strives for excellence in design, quality and compliance. The custom-developed device is available in nine flavours, ranging from classic tobacco to menthol and aromatic flavours.

Significantly, the product’s packaging, device and flavour descriptors have been specifically designed to appeal to adult smokers only.

“Veeba has not been commercialised with flavour descriptors that may appeal to youth, such as images or descriptions of candies or desserts, or brightly coloured or flashy devices or packaging,” Cunningham said.

Instead, the product features subtle colours and functional flavour descriptors that work together with PML’s youth-access prevention programme. “We have purposely not looked to compete with the current market’s offerings in terms of flavours and popularity as our moral positioning within the category holds more value to us,” Cunningham added.

Aikens bats for promoting easy-to-use devices such as disposables or starter kits as part of the Stoptober campaign as many adult consumers will be on the lookout for entry-level products to kickstart their vaping journey, and these products will be most appealing to existing adult smokers who are looking to make the switch because of their convenience.

“Products should be clearly merchandised, utilising in-store marketing and POS cabinets to spotlight a selection of brands and new devices. Display units should be tidy and well-organised, creating an easy to navigate shopping experience for entry-level adult vapers,” Aikens suggested.

He also highlights the need for preparing in advance for Stoptober, and ensuring that the retailers have excess stock available to meet the demands of both new customers and catering to existing adult consumers’ purchasing habits.

“Effectively merchandising and stocking in-demand products will also help retailers to stand out against competitors and drive sales,” he added.