Tobacco companies are taking advantage of the U.K.’s ban on menthol cigarettes to promote alternative products, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Philip Morris reportedly described the ban, which began on May 20, as a “huge opportunity” for its business as the 1.3 million menthol smokers in the U.K. consider their options.
According to the bureau, Philip Morris in the runup to the ban hired sales reps to promote its menthol heated tobacco products directly to newsagents, one of the only legal ways it can advertise in the U.K. where almost all tobacco advertising is banned. It also offered promotional menthol kits and trials for new customers, with half-price tobacco sticks in any of its four menthol flavors.
Philip Morris’ competitors have also tried to turn the menthol ban into a sales opportunity. Japan Tobacco has launched a menthol cigarillo, Imperial Brands has designed a mint-infused card that flavors cigarettes with menthol, and British American Tobacco is marketing its mint-flavored vapes.
“The menthol ban is going to be bad news for a lot of smokers, who are going to find smoking less appealing, so it is a big opportunity for smokers to quit,” said John Britton, professor of epidemiology and director at the U.K. Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham.
He said that tobacco companies will “want to minimize the numbers who quit and maximize the numbers who continue to buy products from them.”