Although vape is looking to be a challenging segment of the tobacco category as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) continues to issue responses to the various Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTAs) submitted, customers are still flocking to stores in search of their favorite vaping devices.
For the 52 weeks ending Oct. 2, 2022, electronic smoking devices increased in dollar sales in the U.S. convenience channel by 13.2% to $6.87 billion, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales, however, stayed relatively flat with only a 1% decrease. The jump in dollar sales is likely due to the price per unit rising by almost $2.
Still, convenience store retailers await the FDA’s final decisions regarding the PMTAs that were submitted by Sept. 9, 2020, for products made from tobacco, and by May 14, 2022, for products with nicotine derived from a source other than tobacco. Out of the 1 million applications for non-tobacco-derived or synthetic nicotine products, as of Oct. 7, 2022, more than 1,600 were accepted, most being for e-cigarette or e-liquid products. Refuse to Accept (RTA) letters were issued for more than 889,000 applications.
On Oct. 26, 2022, FDA issued Marketing Denial Orders (MDOs) for several of Logic Technology Development LLC’s e-cigarette products. These include the Logic Pro Menthol e-Liquid Package and Logic Power Menthol e-Liquid Package.
However, “… Logic sued the FDA and obtained a court stay of enforcement of the MDO pending court review of the MDO,” said Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO).
These rulings follow the FDA’s issuance of MDOs to Magellan Technology Inc. for 32 Hyde e-cigarettes and a warning letter to EVO Brands LLC and PVG2 LLC dba Puff Bar for not having marketing authorization to receive and deliver e-cigarettes in the U.S.
Vape Expected to Grow
At Pete’s Convenient Stores, which has 53 locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, the Vuse Alto 5% nicotine makes up 51% of the vape category, and the Vuse Alto 2.4% nicotine makes up 32% of the category. Apart from Vuse Alto, Pete’s also carries Juul.
Pete’s typically devotes two feet of space within the tobacco set to its vape segment, with other next-generation product segments close by in the tobacco set.
“The category has seen great success in next-generation product segments. We expect the vape segment, along with the Camel snus and nicotine pouch segments, to continue to grow in 2023, pending government regulation that may come up over the year,” said Brenda Elsworth, chief operating officer of Pete’s Convenient Stores.
In Minnesota, retailers carry mostly closed systems, according to Lance Klatt, executive director, Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association.
Customers want “something with a D8 (delta-8) or D9 (delta-9) in the vape,” said Klatt.
Vaping marijuana may grow in Minnesota due to possible legalization, Klatt speculated.
Cities in Minnesota are banning flavors to combat teen use of vape products, which Klatt noticed seems to be more popular among this age group compared to traditional tobacco.
Klatt recommended retailers stay tuned for news on the regulatory front, as “anything and everything is in the air. You never know what to expect with any legislative or local authority.”
Alternative Tobacco Products
Alternative tobacco products, such as low- or no-nicotine cigarettes, are also increasingly entering the retail space.
“The FDA is currently considering issuing a proposed regulation, possibly in 2023, that would set a maximum level of nicotine (a nicotine cap) in cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products,” said Briant. “An exact date is not known as the FDA is working on drafting such a proposed regulation.”
Low- and no-nicotine cigarettes already exist in the market, however. 22nd Century Group’s VLN King and VLN Menthol King cigarettes received Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) authorization and contain 95% less nicotine.
TAAT released its zero nicotine cigarettes, which are made from the company’s proprietary Beyond Tobacco blend and replicate the sensory experience of smoking a cigarette.
“I think they are a conversation,” said Klatt. “(We) need to stay ahead of the regulatory issues and combat them with creativity within the category.”