E-cigarettes: At The Pharmacy
TobaccoTactics has an introductory page explaining what e-cigarettes are and briefly summarises the main public health discussions around them. There are also page on the role of the industry in related issues such as e-cigarettes marketing, regulation and lobbying (upcoming).
Imperial at Boots, BAT at LloydsPharmacy
As of 24 February 2014, Boots, the high street chemist, sells the newly-created Puritane brand from Imperial Tobacco subsidiary Fontem Ventures. Puritane will be exclusively available to Boots from Fontem. Likewise LloydsPharmacy has begun stocking the Vype e-cigarette brand, manufactured by British American Tobacco subsidiary Nicoventures, available in its 1,500 pharmacies since January 2014. It is unclear, whether these deals include the condition not to sell any other brands.PMI acquired Nicocig and Nicolites in June 2014, which sell in several pharmacy outlets across the UK and are also available from an online pharmacy.
Pharmacy chains have previously resisted proposals to stock e-cigarettes until they were regulated as medicines. Yet both Boots and Lloyds have now chosen to close a deal with a tobacco brand, rather than an independent e-cigarette company. In Marketing Magazine LloydsPharmacy explained: "There are more than 100 e-cigarette products on the market and concerns about the quality of ingredients in some brands have been widely reported". The company chose Vype because it uses "ECOpure, a nicotine liquid which is manufactured in the UK and is tested for impurities to ensure it is of the highest quality."
Independently-owned companies such as E Lites and Nicolites also use pharmaceutical grade-nicotine, but attempts to sell their products in Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy did not succeed. Adrian Everett, group chief executive of E-Lites, told Marketing Magazine:
- We are now faced with tobacco-owned competitors in both Boots and Lloyds, but hopefully this will now open the channel for the leading independent brands too.
The rise of the e-cigarette has been welcomed by health campaigners, but big tobacco’s entrance into the market has had a more mixed reaction, the Financial Times wrote. Some health campaigners question how dedicated tobacco companies are to products intended to help people stop smoking:
- Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath, said a “concern is that the tobacco companies, who are now selling many of the e-cigarettes, will not wish to cannibalise their highly profitable cigarette sales by shifting smokers from cigarettes to e-cigarettes”.
Against Advice of Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Pharmacies selling e-cigarettes goes against advice issued by the pharmacist’ professional body, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), which warns against this until e-cigarettes become regulated as medicines.
The chemist chains admit that commercial interests prevailed over waiting a couple of years for a thoroughly tested and regulated product. In an "internal communication" seen by PJ Online, Boots’s superintendent pharmacist Steve Banks says that more and more customers are asking for these products: "We know patients and customers will continue to buy electronic cigarettes whether Boots stock them or not."
Boots will market e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking to people aged 18 and over, a spokeswoman explained: "By offering Puritane over the pharmacy counter, this will enable our healthcare teams to have personalised conversations with our customers to help them identify the best product suited to their needs." By contrast, Lloydspharmacy places its e-cigarettes on the shop-floor. Boots will not advertise the launch of Puritane in its stores. But in future the chain may sell the product online via boots.com.
A February 2014 overview in the RPS' PJ Online shows further differences in policies amongst independent pharmacies.
- Numark, a network of 3,000 independent pharmacies, has no policy on e-cigarettes, leaving it up to individual members to decide whether they sell them.
- The Co-operative Pharmacy does not stock e-cigarettes, awaiting further clarity regarding licensing.
- Pharmacy Voice, which represents three community pharmacy associations, supports the RPS policy on e-cigarettes. However, some pharmacies are "trialling" sales of e-cigarettes and the organisation will review its position in light of ongoing discussions.
- Tesco and Sainsbury’s did not respond to queries from PJ Online.
According to the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) in February 2014, there is a growing presence of e-cigarettes being sold in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Other TobaccoTactics Resources
- PJ Online, Boots and Lloydspharmacy join the vaping fold by selling e-cigarettes, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 13 February 2014, accessed February 2014
- Weldricks Pharmacy, Product Search Nicocigs, undated, accessed June 2014
- Matthew Chapman, Boots to sell Puritane e-cigarettes from Imperial Tobacco subsidiary, Marketing Magazine, 19 February 2014, accessed February 2014
- Duncan Robinson, Boots to stock Imperial Tobacco’s e-cigarette, Financial Times, 20 February 2014, accessed February 2014