Targeting Casual Smokers

A new class of products is emerging to satisfy the needs of social tobacco users.

So many thoughts that capture my mind are worthy of being written about. Some incite our emotions (like the recent attack on Terry Gallagher of Smoker Friendly who accepted the position as coach of the Boulder High School girls varsity basketball team in Colorado).

Some make us ponder the outcome (such as GlaxoSmithKline’s decision to market nicotine mini-lozenges in cherry and mint flavors. Is this a ploy to lure kids?); and others are a call to action (like supporting Tom Briant and the efforts of NATO).

But one thing we all need to think about is how the world is rapidly changing for tobacco users, distributors and retailers. Whether the issues are taxes, restrictions or changing regulations, the broad social and legal landscape for these users and retailers is changing rapidly. Recently, I read an interesting article about how even smokers are changing.

“Non-daily smokers are a fast-growing subpopulation of smokers now constituting at least 25% of all adult smokers in the U.S.,” said Saul Shiffman, a professor in the departments of psychology and pharmaceutical science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Understanding Smoker Behavior
The facts and the studies speak to one of the most underreported statistics in the U.S. with respect to smoking and tobacco usage. The fastest growing group of smokers in the country is the casual smoker—the smoker who uses traditional tobacco products when he finds himself in social situations where others are using tobacco.

These smokers use tobacco just a few times a week and are not addicted to nicotine and not likely to become addicted.

These studies fly in the face of erstwhile medical “experts” and anti-tobacco activists who would have you believe that tobacco use is a one way ticket to nicotine addiction and a lifetime of struggles.

Other very interesting research supports similar findings. Of the smokers who quit and then went back to cigarettes after six months, more than 53% polled said they did so because they miss the “activity” of smoking—the hand-to-mouth action—with something to hold and touch. The point of this statistic is that most physicians and psychologists will tell you that at six months the nicotine addiction is beat, yet, these folks return to smoking, referring to the idea that, “I needed to do something with my hands.”

The fact of the matter is that many consumers are using traditional tobacco products because of the sociability factor, hand-to-mouth activity or oral gratification that it provides. For these consumers researchers are finding, products without nicotine or tobacco will suffice in all of the situations that they now use tobacco, but without the odor, social liability and hassle. For these consumers, a new class of products, without nicotine, tobacco and, in most cases, without smoke, is the ticket. This means no regulatory restrictions, taxes or limits as to how and where they can be displayed, sampled and sold.

But the key to the success of these products, which includes electronic cigarettes, is to have them available where traditional tobacco is sold as well as new age tobacco/nicotine products. Many consumers are searching for substitutes to tobacco in places where they can no longer use it. As a result, products designed for substitution and alternatives need to be where tobacco users typically and consistently buy their tobacco products. These new products, placed on counters where the traditional smoker and casual smoker will see them, can increase margins and revenues without the accompanying tax burdens and regulatory oversight.

The trends are building and they are undeniable. Take a look at this category and don’t be afraid to stock it. This is a real opportunity to build loyalty among a growing group of identifiable consumers (social users) as well as those who are looking for options for when they choose not to smoke.

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