The giants of the sector are developing a new range of products for adult smokers. But the electronic cigarette seduces young people. A situation that worries the public authorities, such as San Francisco
The steaming industry in San Francisco is breathless. The Californian city decided on Tuesday to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes. Manufacturers “target our children with their advertising and addict them to nicotine products,” accused London Breed, the Democratic mayor. This decision shakes up a booming sector. A market dominated by Juul, whose products are all the rage among teenagers.
Faced with criticism, the American company defends itself. There is no way his cigarettes – which have the shape of a USB stick – will fall into the hands of minors. The leader in electronic cigarettes is shaking, but its activity is not limited to the United States. Its products are available in several European countries, including Switzerland. In December, the founder of the Californian company, Adam Bowen, travelled to Zurich to convey a reassuring message: “Our target group is adults.”
Free starter kit
If in San Francisco, we forbid, in Lausanne, we offer. The tobacco industry is increasing its communication efforts to promote the benefits of steaming. The giant Philip Morris wants to change the habits of Swiss consumers with his substitute IQOS, for “I Quit Ordinary Smoking”.
Last week, he offered a starter kit as part of a major communication campaign. The multinational’s boss for Switzerland, Dominique Leroux, is displayed on glossy paper, with this message: “Consumers no longer have any reason to choose cigarettes.” The new device is at hand with six free packages. When contacted, the company did not reveal any figures on the number of kits distributed, while ensuring that it had “achieved the objectives”.
This marketing action caused the Centre de prévention du tabagisme de Genève to jump. “This is the Trojan horse’s usual strategy, which also aims to attract new customers, especially young people, who are particularly sensitive to the argument of free access,” worried its deputy director, Corinne Wahl, in a recent 24-hour article.
Like Juul, Philip Morris assures that he only addresses adult smokers. “The product was only delivered after verification of identity, an interview with sales staff and registration,” replied the company’s spokesman. In March, Addictions Switzerland published a study on steaming among young people, with a focus on tobacco to be heated, IQOS category. About 2% of boys and 1% of girls aged 15 have tested this type of product at least once in their lives.
No fear for Philip Morris
After four years of existence, IQOS represents 2.5% of the Swiss market share, or about 50,000 converts. A less significant breakthrough than in other countries such as Japan (16%) or Lithuania (11.7%). Is the San Francisco decision a bad signal for the tobacco industry in Switzerland? Philip Morris has no fears. “On the regulatory level, the new federal law on tobacco products proposes to provide a legal framework for the sale of electronic cigarettes, not to prohibit them,” his representative points out.
The draft law, which will be passed in parliament at the end of 2020, strengthens the ban on products for minors at the national level. Published on Wednesday, a study by the French health agency shows that the electronic cigarette has helped 700,000 people stop smoking in the country. On the other hand, this study excludes adolescents. It is impossible to know how many have given in to the temptation of vapotage.