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E-cigs lead in UK groceries

The Financial Times reports that electronic cigarettes are the fastest growing product in British supermarkets. During the past year, e-cigarettes outpaced sports nutrition drinks, both in terms of sales volume, and in terms of total value. This occurred despite the strong showing by online e-cigarette suppliers, which can offer a wider range of devices.

In volume, the product rose to 17.3 million units, a gain of about 50%, according to Nielsen, which monitors such statistics. In value, it rose by 43.4% to 122 million GPB.

At the same time, sale of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum fell by 6.1% to 13.3 million units. More than two million Brits use e-cigs, triple the 2010 figure, says the charitable organization Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

The FT cites the recent Cochrane study to the effect that vaping really is an effective method for smoking cessation. The Cochrane Collaboration is an independent research network, notes the FT. The news source also gives information on the international controversy caused by the World Health Organisation's call for a ban on public vaping, and the response of the world's most informed nicotine scientists, calling the WHO position “alarmist” and noting that e-cigs are safer than inhaling certifiably poisonous smoke.

The UK advertising watchdog, the ASA (Advertising Standards Association) now allows adverts for e-cigs on the telly, as long as they do not target non-smokers. One tenth of one percent of e-cig users are not ex-smokers, so the potential problem seems miniscule. Meanwhile, Big Tobacco firms are buying up small vaping supplies companies in an attempt to muscle in on the industry that is threatening its already declining profits, and solve the problem of declining smoking rates by dominating the market for smoking cessation.

Grocers may be enjoying profits from e-cigs, but will have to continue competing with online sales, says Neilson tobacco analyst Natasha Kendall.

“Grocery retailers may struggle to compete with the choice of devices and flavours available online and should ensure that they are offering a strong range that hits a variety of price points,” Kendall suggests. 

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