E-cigarettes: At The Pharmacy

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TobaccoTactics has an introductory page explaining what e-cigarettes are and the role of the tobacco industry in relation to e-cigarette marketing, regulation and lobbying.
This page describes the arrival of e-cigarettes in pharmacies in the UK in 2014.

Imperial at Boots, BAT at LloydsPharmacy

News: Boots selling Imperial e-cigarettes.

On 24 February 2014, Boots, the high street chemist, began exclusively selling the newly-created Puritane brand from Imperial Tobacco subsidiary Fontem Ventures. Likewise LloydsPharmacy began stocking the Vype e-cigarette brand, manufactured by British American Tobacco subsidiary Nicoventures, in its 1,500 pharmacies.1 It is unclear, whether these deals included the condition not to sell any other brands. PMI acquired Nicocig and Nicolites in June 2014, which were sold in several pharmacy outlets across the UK and online.2

Pharmacy chains had previously resisted proposals to stock e-cigarettes until they were regulated as medicines. Yet both Boots and Lloyds chose to close a deal with a tobacco brand, rather than an independent e-cigarette company.

In Marketing Magazine LloydsPharmacy explained: “There are more than 100 e-cigarette products on the market and concerns about the quality of ingredients in some brands have been widely reported”. The company chose Vype because it uses “ECOpure, a nicotine liquid which is manufactured in the UK and is tested for impurities to ensure it is of the highest quality.”3

E-cigarette brands which were independently-owned at the time, such as E-Lites (later bought by Japan Tobacco International and discontinued), also used pharmaceutical grade-nicotine, but attempts to sell their products in Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy did not succeed. Adrian Everett, group chief executive of E-Lites, told Marketing Magazine:

We are now faced with tobacco-owned competitors in both Boots and Lloyds, but hopefully this will now open the channel for the leading independent brands too.3

The rise of the e-cigarette was welcomed by health campaigners in the UK, but big tobacco’s entrance into the market had a more mixed reaction, the Financial Times wrote. Some health campaigners questioned how dedicated tobacco companies were to products intended to help people stop smoking:

Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath, said a “concern is that the tobacco companies, who are now selling many of the e-cigarettes, will not wish to cannibalise their highly profitable cigarette sales by shifting smokers from cigarettes to e-cigarettes”.4

Against Advice of Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Pharmacies selling e-cigarettes went against advice issued by the pharmacist’ professional body, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), which warned against this until such a time as e-cigarettes became regulated as medicines.

The chemist chains admitted that commercial interests prevailed over waiting for a thoroughly tested and regulated product. In an “internal communication”” seen by PJ Online, Boots’s superintendent pharmacist Steve Banks said that more and more customers were asking for these products: “We know patients and customers will continue to buy electronic cigarettes whether Boots stock them or not.”1

Lloydspharmacy: e-cigarettes on the shop-floor.

Boots said that it would market e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking to people aged 18 and over:
“By offering Puritane over the pharmacy counter, this will enable our healthcare teams to have personalised conversations with our customers to help them identify the best product suited to their needs.”3 By contrast, Lloydspharmacy placed its e-cigarettes on the shop-floor. Boots said that it would not advertise the launch of Puritane in its stores.1

In February 2014 an overview in the RPS’ PJ Online showed differences in policies amongst independent pharmacies.

  • Numark, a network of 3,000 independent pharmacies, had no policy on e-cigarettes, leaving it up to individual members to decide whether they sell them.
  • The Co-operative Pharmacy did not initially stock e-cigarettes, stating that it was awaiting further clarity regarding licensing.
  • Pharmacy Voice, which represents three community pharmacy associations, supported the RPS policy on e-cigarettes. However, some pharmacies were “trialling” sales of e-cigarettes:* Tesco and Sainsbury’s did not respond to queries from PJ Online.

Just weeks after Boots and LloydsPharmacy announced their deals, the Cooperative Pharmacy also began selling Vype e-cigarettes.5

After an apparently unsuccessful attempt to have Puritane registered as a medical device in the UK in 2014, the product was discontinued. For more information see Fontem Ventures.
From 2014, a growing range of e-cigarettes were being sold in UK pharmacies and supermarkets.1

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  1. abcdPJ Online, Boots and Lloydspharmacy join the vaping fold by selling e-cigarettes, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 13 February 2014, accessed May 2019
  2. Weldricks Pharmacy, Product Search Nicocigs, undated, accessed June 2014
  3. abcM. Chapman, Boots to sell Puritane e-cigarettes from Imperial Tobacco subsidiary, Marketing Magazine, 19 February 2014, accessed May 2019
  4. D. Robinson, Boots to stock Imperial Tobacco’s e-cigarette, Financial Times, 20 February 2014, accessed May 2019
  5. J. Gregory, Cooperative pharmacy to sell e-cigarettes from April, Community Pharmacy News, Analysis and CPD, 11 March 2014, accessed May 2019