With just weeks until the ban on menthol and capsule cigarettes comes into force from 20 May, convenience retailers across the county are making final preparations and ensuring that adult menthol smokers are well aware of the range of alternative that will be open to them.
Following C-Store and JTI’s roundtable event earlier this year, we caught up with independent retailer Akshay Patel (top) and JTI’s communications director Mark Yexley to find out how preparations were going.
How have you been communicating the ban to customers?
Akshay: “We have signage supplied by the ACS at key points in the store - above the gantry and on the store windows. We also respond to any queries our customers might have and communicate other potential products that we will have on offer to them post ban.”
Mark Yexley: “The best thing you can do is ensure that you and your staff are knowledgeable about the upcoming legislation and aware of the alternative options available to adult smokers from 20 May so that you can answer any questions with confidence.
“Our dedicated menthol ban microsite includes a number of consumer-facing pages which you can also direct your customers to in order to find out more information.”
What changes are adult menthol smokers telling you they might make following the ban?
Akshay: “Largely, feedback from our customers has been that they will stay brand loyal but switch to an alternative variant, potentially adding mentholated filters or infusion cards to handrolling tobacco. Other customers are moving to Logic Compact, opting for menthol flavour pods.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI expects most adult smokers to stay within the cigarette category and remain brand loyal. To cater to these needs, we have recently announced the launch of the new Dual range, a series of new products with distinctive tobacco blends plus product and pack innovations ahead of the menthol and capsule cigarette ban.”
Menthol Ban overview:
- The legislation will come into force from 20 May 2020, when all Menthol, Capsule and flavoured cigarettes will be banned from sale in both the UK and EU.
- Menthol cigarettes are those products that contain a mentholated filter tip, while capsule cigarettes contain one or more small capsules within the filter tip which can be ‘burst’ by squeezing between the fingertips.
- The Menthol and Capsule Ban is the next phase of the European Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD2) legislation that first came into effect in May 2016. As it is already in UK law, it is not affected by the UK’s exit from the EU.
Will price remain a key concern for smokers post-display ban?
Akshay: “Of course, a lot of our customers buy products with value price points and we do not think that will change post-ban.”
Mark Yexley: “Yes, price will remain a key factor for existing adult smokers when choosing where to shop for tobacco. JTI recommends selling at rrp or below to maximise sales and avoid lost custom - retailers are of course free to sell JTI products at whatever price they choose.”
Are you concerned that illicit tobacco will be a problem after the menthol ban comes into effect?
Akshay: “As with any other ban, there will be a few people that will be tempted to seek fake menthol ban products illegally and that is a huge concern for all of us. We hope that the government and local authorities will be able to clamp down on such activities and we believe this will be made easier through Track and Trace. The safety of our customers is of great importance and we always do our best to educate our tobacco customers on the dangers of illicit tobacco.”
Mark Yexley: “We do have a concern that after the ban, some menthol and capsule smokers who can’t buy their usual brand through legal channels might be tempted to look for those products on the black market.
”We all need to work together to educate consumers of the dangers of illegal tobacco and I would encourage retailers to direct consumers to JTI’s Don’t Be Complicit In Illicit microsite.”
How prepared do you now feel about the ban?
Akshay: “We have been planning on what to do post-ban with the gantry losing a lot of SKUs, but we are aware that new products will be available from 20 May. In the meantime, we have been offering alternative products, such as vapes, to our customers, when they are buying menthol and capsule cigarettes – just so that they are aware of the options available.”
Mark Yexley: “With the menthol and capsule cigarette ban just weeks away, it is now more important than ever for retailers to ensure that they have a plan in place ahead of 20 May.
“You should ensure that you and your staff are aware of the details surrounding the upcoming legislation, including what will and won’t be affected, and that you know how to remain compliant after the ban. Failure to comply could lead to a fine, imprisonment or both.
“You should also make sure that you and your staff know about the alternative options available from 20 May and are able to communicate these to your customers.”
What range of alternatives to menthol and capsule cigarettes are you offering, and will you extend this following the ban?
Akshay: “We are currently stocking Logic Compact and Logic EPIQ, alongside Nordic Spirit, tobacco accessories and other vape products. These are selling well in our store, and as some of our customers will move to vaping post-ban, it is important that we offer a range of products to cater to them.
“We are looking at growing our range once the new products are available.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI expects most adult smokers to stay within the cigarette category and remain brand loyal, switching to an alternative variant.
“Whatever adult smokers do after the menthol ban, JTI has the alternatives covered. We would recommend stocking up on a wide range of products and maintaining a full range and availability of tobacco brands across the pricing scale to meet the needs of your customers.”
- JTI has a wide range of alternative products to meet differing adult smoker needs post the menthol and capsule cigarette ban.
- The ‘New Dual’ range (available across Sterling New Dual, Benson & Hedges New Blue Dual, Sovereign New Dual and Benson & Hedges New Dual) has been designed to provide adult smokers with a “new distinctive tobacco blend in a unique dual pack which now includes two sections of ten cigarettes”.
- The same blend will also be available across Sterling New Superkings Green, Benson & Hedges New Superkings Green, Berkeley New Superkings Green and Mayfair New Green.
- The Sovereign New Dual range also contains a new Flow Tech centre hole in the filter, which provides further product differentiation within the market by providing a firmer filter, quality smoking experience.
- JTI has also recently launched Sterling Dual Capsule Leaf Wrapped cigarillos which contain a peppermint capsule that smokers can click to release a menthol flavour.
- It has also extended its Logic Compact vaping range to include nine menthol flavours and its Logic EPIQ e-liquids range to include Peppermint and Berry Mint nicotine salts and Mint Royale High VG 70/30 e-liquids.
- JTI’s Nordic Spirit tobacco-free nicotine pouches are also available in a fresh mint variant.
Are you concerned about being left with stocks of menthol cigarettes after the ban?
Akshay: “We are not concerned about being left with stock. We have been in constant communication with our reps and have been assured that they will be swapping out stock after the ban. Our plan is to carry on selling as normal up until 20 May, and we’re getting ready to see a massive uplift in sales in the two weeks prior.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI representatives will exchange menthol and capsule stock held by every retailer who our sales reps visit as part of our standard 12-week call cycle.
“Whilst the current Covid-19 situation is clearly unprecedented, we are determined to continue to support our trade partners through this period of uncertainty.
“Should your local JTI representative not be able to visit immediately following the ban on 20 May, retailers should ensure that they keep the stock that needs swapping separate from other stock.
”In the meantime, retailers who require assistance can contact their JTI representative by phone, visit the trade website JTI Advance or call the Customer Care Line on 0800 163503.”
For further Menthol Ban updates, visit JTI’s dedicated microsite at www.jtiadvance.co.uk/MentholBan2020.
The site also includes a number of consumer-facing pages as well as a newly launched interactive training module for retailers and their staff.
JTI is encouraging retailers to direct consumers concerned about the illicit trade to JTI’s Don’t Be Complicit In Illicit microsite www.jtiadvance.co.uk/DontBeComplicit.