Just two weeks after it was enforced, some adult smokers are actively looking for new and potentially dangerous loopholes around the ban on menthol and capsule cigarettes, retailers are warning.
Introduced on 20 May, with no sell through period, the ban has left around a quarter of all adult smokers on the look-out for alternatives, with not all of them legal and some potentially unsafe.
Premier retailer Samantha Coldbeck from Hull said some customers had told her they intended to “sprinkle their cigarettes with menthol flavoured e-liquids prior to smoking them.”
“Obviously I have been really shocked and concerned to hear comments like that and am doing my best to warn customers of the dangers of homemade alterations, as vape liquids are not intended to be burned or inhaled in that manner,” she told C-Store.
“It demonstrates how dangerous it can be to ban a product that is in high demand as people will just try to find loopholes, and potentially, really damaging ones,” she said.
Menthol smokers are also sharing hints and tips on various “ways to get around the ban” on a social media platforms.
In one Facebook post seen by C-Store, a female smoker had posted a picture of her regular tobacco cigarette which she had dipped in a “menthol chill” flavoured e-liquid containing nicotine.
A number of other smokers are sharing advice and videos of how to add menthol filter tips to unflavoured factory-made cigarettes.
Warwickshire retailer Sid Sidhu, of St John’s Budgens in Kenilworth, said the ban was also likely to drive some smokers towards illicit sources of supply.
“The odd customer has asked me if I’d be prepared to sell some of my left-over menthol stocks to them under the counter. Obviously I’ve refused, but I expect that there will be some retailers out there who will be tempted to do so, and of course other illicit traders will look to profit from the ban where they can,” he said.
A survey conducted by Populus for the smokers’ group Forest just days prior to the ban revealed that almost half (46%) of smokers thought it would increase illicit trade.
Commenting on the post ban situation, Forest director Simon Clark, told C-Store: “Initial feedback suggests that as a result of the ban a significant number of previously law-abiding smokers will be tempted to buy illegal menthol cigarettes.
“It may be more difficult to purchase black market cigarettes during lockdown but once restrictions are lifted it’s reasonable to assume there will be a flourishing trade in illicit menthol-flavoured cigarettes.
“It’s extraordinary that the government has allowed this to happen, putting consumers at potentially greater risk than before.”
The UK’s leading tobacco manufacturers launched a range of legitimate “alternatives” to menthol and capsule cigarettes in the run-up to the ban, including menthol cigarillos, filter tips and flavour cards.
Heated tobacco products, such as PMI’s Iqos device, are also exempt from the ban and are proving to be “convincing legitimate alternatives,” according to Sid, who has sold 20 Iqos menthol kits to customers on a trial basis, in the last week alone.