Flavor capsules – make smoking ‘cool’

29 September 2017:

The tobacco industry continues to introduce innovation to make smoking “cool” and one such tactic is flavor capsules. Described as one of the industry’s “most innovative” and “popular” product, these flavor capsules are crushable beads embedded in cigarette filters that give bursts of flavor to the tobacco.

The industry is aiming for younger smokers especially those who are attracted to the “cool factor” and the wide variety of flavors these cigarettes and e-liquids offers. In Indonesia for example, retail value sales of vapor products nearly quintupled to reach IDR321 billion (US$24 million) in 2016.

According to a Euromonitor figures, flavor capsule cigarettes have bigger market share in developing countries in Latin America which make up the top five markets: Chile, 32.0% of the tobacco market in 2015, followed by Peru (22.8%), Guatemala (19.3%), Argentina (15.6%), and Mexico (13.7%). High income countries fall behind – Sweden (13%), Ireland (10%), Japan (8.4%), and the UK (7.9%).

In recent years sales of capsule cigarettes are growing in many countries. The tobacco industry’s strategy is to step up marketing of cigarettes with these squeezable flavour capsules. While menthol is the most common flavour in capsules, other flavours such lemon mint, apple mint, grape and berry are also sold.

According to a spokesperson from leading filter manufacturer, Essentra, demand is growing. In the ASEAN region, Essentra reported to be making considerable investments in Thailand and Indonesian. Essentra says, “This is hugely exciting for us as we now have capsule filter manufacturing capability across all regions.”

What the tobacco industry is worried about is that many countries have started to ban flavouring in cigarettes since they increase attractiveness to smoking and discourage quitting. According to Rob Cunningham from the Canadian Cancer Society, Nova Scotia was the first place in the world to ban menthol cigarettes in 2015. Seven out of 10 Canadian provinces have since adopted menthol bans as part of broader ban on flavoured tobacco.

In the European Union a ban on menthol cigarette will come into force 20 May 2020 for all 28 EU countries. Germany and Belgium were the first countries with cigarette capsule bans, prior to the EU requirement. Turkey and Moldova will also impose a ban in May 2020.

WHO Advisory Note recommends, menthol – including its analogues, precursors, and derivatives –be banned from cigarettes.

Menthol cigarettes represented 10% of the entire cigarette market in a survey of 40 countries. About 14 countries had a menthol cigarette market share of more than 15% including Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The prevalence among smokers of menthol cigarettes was highest in the Philippines (60%).