A leading UK tobacco executive pleaded with the government to pass regulations to control the sale of nicotine packets which were introduced to the UK market in 2019. Dean Gilfillan, UK Managing Director of Japan Tobacco International (JTI), has raised concerns that nicotine packets are only covered by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 because they do not contain tobacco.
This means that they can be sold to anyone under the age of 18 and there are no regulations covering the strength of the product. While the tobacco industry has accepted voluntary standards, a slew of online start-ups have exploited loopholes in the law.
Mr. Gilfillan said, âWe have agreed to an industry standard which means no sale to anyone under the age of 18. Clearly stated, we are running the usual mystery shopper campaign and penalizing non-compliant retailers.
âRetailers must comply with every part of our standard agreement. We enforce it and will cancel contracts with retailers who break the rules. We believe the government should regulate these products under the Tobacco and Allied Products Regulations. “
Voluntary standards include a maximum strength of 20 mg per sachet, but some small online retailers sell four times that strength, the equivalent of smoking 10 cigarettes at a time.
Mr Gilfillan said, âThe allowable voluntary strength of 20 mg per sachet gives a reasonable shot for a consumer. With this product, the nicotine enters the body faster than the traditional combustible product, so you feel the hit quite quickly.
âWe are indeed very concerned that a number of websites are popping up that offer products up to 80 mg per sachet. If you put in an 80 mg packet of nicotine, there’s a good chance you’ll fall within five minutes. Thinking about it with money, it’s like smoking eight to ten flavorful cigarettes at one time. You are either throwing up or passing out.
However, he warned that the biggest concern was how minors are being targeted with labels copying popular soft drinks or candy. The risk of underage consumers picking up this and seeing it as a test of strength with their friends to try this product is incredibly high. I think he’s trying to exploit the young teenager, dare you do that type mentality. Totally out of service.
Nicotine sachets have only recently arrived in the UK, but have been a popular alternative to smoking in Scandinavia for around a century. Sweden, where sachets have been the flagship for many years, has the lowest cancer rates in Europe, however, research is still being done to see if they are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Mr Gilfillan said he was concerned that the behavior of unscrupulous companies online could lead to a ban on a product that could help smokers get rid of traditional cigarettes.
He said: âWe are very attached to this because the backlash will hit the industry trying to comply with reasonable limits and basic safety standards. We encourage the government to introduce regulations under existing tobacco regulations and to introduce meaningful penalties. “
JTI owns Nordic Spirit; the leading brand of nicotine sachets in traditional retailing in the UK, with around 60 percent market share worth around Â£ 15.4million per year. The category has seen strong growth throughout 2020 and 2021, valuing it at around Â£ 32million per year.