By increasing excise taxes, eliminating tobacco marketing and requiring standardised (plain) packaging of tobacco products, governments internationally have reduced smoking’s allure. Yet product innovations, such as flavour capsule variants (FCVs), remain unregulated and may appeal to non-smokers. We examined the growth of FCVs in a country with a progressive policy environment.
Each year, New Zealand tobacco companies must provide details of the number of cigarette sticks released for each brand and variant to the Ministry of Health. We used this information to analyse FCVs’ performance for British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI), which account for a large proportion of New Zealand tobacco sales. We report the quantity released of each variant and share of parent brand portfolio, and examine growth patterns within the premium, every-day and value market sub-sections.
BAT introduced FCVs in 2012 and by 2014 offered FCVs in all market sub-sections; PMI introduced a Marlboro FCV in 2014. FCVs grew rapidly relative to unflavoured variants and, by 2017, represented nearly ten percent of BAT’s product portfolio and over three percent of PMI’s product portfolio. By 2017, FCVs accounted for more than a third of the Dunhill sticks released, 14% of Holiday, and 17% of Pall Mall.
FCVs’ rapid growth may have reduced declines in the numbers of sticks released. Policy makers should disallow FCV innovations, which offer no health benefits to smokers and may instead attract non-smokers to smoking. Where timely, these regulations could be incorporated into standardised packaging policies.
FCVs have grown quickly in countries with comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions, which suggests tobacco companies are now focussing on novel product designs to attract new smokers. Standardised packaging regulations could address both external packaging and stick design innovations, such as FCVs; alternatively, specific regulations prohibiting FCVs may be required.