E-Cigarettes: Japan Tobacco International

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Japan Tobacco International (JTI) did not have a stake in e-cigarette technology until the company took a minority share in United States (US) company Ploom Inc. (now known as JUUL Labs) in 2011. It acquired UK-based e-cigarette company Zandera in 2014, and US company Logic in 2015. Since 2016 it has focussed on marketing its Logic e-cigarettes and as of September 2019 was selling the brand in 19 countries.1

  • For more information on Ploom, and similar products produced by other tobacco companies, see Heated Tobacco Products.

Image 1. E-Lites e-cigarette and charger (screen grab www.e-lites.co.uk, June 2014)

Acquired E-Cigarette Brands

  • E-Lites Acquired UK e-cigarette company Zandera for an undisclosed amount in 2014.234 E-Lites was one of the leading e-cigarette brands in the UK, and the first to be available in the four biggest supermarkets.5
  • Logic Acquired in July 2015, JTI described it as “the leading independent US e-cigarette company”.67

From 2016, E-Lites was rebranded as Logic and JTI’s e-cigarettes were on sale under this brand.7
As of October 2019 the US Logic website did not state that the brand is owned by JTI.8 The UK website states in the policy small print that it is owned by Gallaher (a tobacco company acquired by JTI in 2017) and “JTI UK”, but does not give the full name of the company.9

E-Cigarette Products

Product Details
Logic Original ‘Cig-alike’ resembling the original E-Lites device.10
Logic Curv A “refined” cig-alike. Originally the E-Lites Curve, relaunched ‘Curv’ in 2015.11 Rebranded as Logic in 2016.
Logic Power A range of rechargeable ‘cig-a-like’ devices sold in the US. Also has a disposable variation.12
Logic Pro Closed tank system, originally launched by Logic in 2014, using sealed capsules with multiple flavours (see below). An updated version, the Logic Pro 2, was released in Europe in 2018.13
Logic LQD Open tank system (developed from the original Logic product), re-launched in the UK in December 2016 with an ad campaign on buses, TV and in cinemas.14
Logic Compact Launched by JTI in the UK in August 2018, with nicotine salt variation and different nicotine concentrations available in different countries (see below).1516

Product Innovation

Image 2. Logic Compact ‘Intense’ nicotine salt product flavours.17

Flavours

Similar to cigarettes, flavour is an important product innovation tool to boost e-cigarettes sales. Capsules for the Logic Pro, and bottled liquids for the LQD, are available in different flavours such as “forest fruits” and “chai latte”. There are also several liquids designed to produce larger vape clouds, including “cherry sling”, “coconut crush” and “minted mojito”.18 While its manufacturing is mostly in China and Japan, in 2018 JTI opened a European factory in Gostkow, Poland, to manufacture e-liquids for both Logic and its HTPs.15

Higher Doses of Nicotine

The Logic Compact is the only JTI device which uses the “Intense” range capsules containing nicotine salts (see Image 2), which are created when ‘freebase’ nicotine is dissolved in acid.19 This can make a higher dose of nicotine more palatable and so allow higher doses of more concentrated nicotine to be consumed. In the EU the highest permissible level of nicotine is 20mg/ml. Whereas other Logic e-liquids have a choice of nicotine level (12 or 18 mg), Intense capsules all contain 18mg. On the product pages of JTI’s UK website, the Intense range is described as a “smoother, satisfying and enhanced experience”, and “perfect for experienced vapers”.17
In some of JTI’s markets, concentrations of 34 and 58/59 mg/ml are on sale.1

“Plug and Play” For “Health Benefits”

In March 2019, JTI announced a partnership with US company Plug and Play, a technology ‘incubator’, to develop a programme called “Vapetech”. JTI said it was “bringing together innovators and data experts to develop technology that improves the experience and health benefits of vaping.”20 In its 2018 annual report JTI stated that the outcomes of this partnership would benefit the growth of both Logic and Ploom.15 At the time of writing it was not clear what products were being developed.
Other tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and JUUL Labs have produced devices which use ‘lifestyle’ apps to gather user data.

Harm Reduction Claims

JTI refers to both its e-cigarettes and HTPs as “Reduced Risk Products” (RRPs), sometimes preceded by the word “potentially”.152122 Similar terms are used by British American Tobacco (BAT) and Philip Morris International (PMI).
JTI describes its “RRPs” as offering consumers a choice:

“Consumers all over the world vary in their needs, demands and desires, and where one individual might find conventional products meet those requirements, a growing number are looking to the benefits of Reduced-Risk Products (RRPs). This is usually due to the products’ potential for harm reduction and/or an experience that is more tailored to their lifestyle or situation.”22

These products form part of JTI’s stated strategy for “Building a Brighter Future”.2122 In 2019, it claimed to have spent US$1 billion in five years on “design, development and scientific research” into RRPs (including HTPs).23 Its 2018 annual report specified a total investment of 200 billion yen US$1.85 billion in RRPs by 2020.15

Key Markets

Before 2016, key markets for JTI’s e-cigarettes were the UK and US.24  After E-Lites products were rebranded as Logic in 2016, the company started to expand sales globally.1524 In 2018, JTI was the first multinational tobacco company to market an e-cigarette in Switzerland after the Swiss courts lifted a ban on sales.25
The Logic Compact product variation appears to be key to the company’s strategy, with product launches early 2019 in Ireland, Romania, Russia, Canada, and mainland Europe, including Switzerland.126 The device launched in Kuwait in April, JTI’s first launch in the Middle East. Tobacco Asia quoted Roger Hambleton, JTI’s RRP brand manager in the Middle East, as saying that “there has emerged a genuine desire for RRPs Kuwait and locals hold a strong belief in the potential health benefits of vaping”.1 In December 2019, JTI launched Compact in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).27
In September 2019, JTI launched Compact in New Zealand.1 At the time, tobacco companies in New Zealand, notably British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, were reported to be aggressively marketing their products (including HTPs) in anticipation of possible regulation being introduced by the New Zealand government.28
In October, the company reported that Logic was on sale in 19 countries.29 The November launch in Portugal and the December launch in the UAE brought this total to over 20.2730

Advertising Strategy

Image 3. JTI’s launch of the Logic Compact in a pop-up ‘vaping lounge’, September 201831

As e-cigarette advertising has become more restricted, in Europe and elsewhere, tobacco companies have been forced to become more creative. JTI, like other companies, is increasingly using social media and influencers to promote its products.323334

The “Vapartment”

Promotion around the launch of Compact, in September 2018, included a collaboration with UK fashion designer Pearl Lowe, who produced a case for the device. This was only available “as part of an online inclusive starter pack”.35 Lowe attended a launch party in a ‘pop-up’ vaping lounge, “the Vapartment” in a in London associated with art and design, sustainability and healthy living (see image 3). It was held at the start of London Fashion Week, and the first 50 visitors were offered a free Logic Compact if they provided their e-mail address. They could also try out the device in what was promoted as “the perfect alternate office environment”.31 The creative company who designed the event said that the media launch was followed by “3 days of consumer engagement and sampling, featuring DJ’s and influencers”.36
For more background information on e-cigarette promotion and marketing, go to Marketing and Marketing Rules.

Lobbying Regulators For Fewer Restrictions

The intended roll out of Logic products in the Middle East and Asia was restricted by existing regulation on e-cigarettes and an increasing number of outright bans, including in Japan.37 Denis Fichot, JTI’s RRPs Corporate Affairs Director, stated the company’s position on regulation to Tobacco Asia in September 2019:

“We advocate for open and regulated markets, because adult consumers should have the opportunity to opt for alternatives to [conventional] smoking”.1

He went on to say that a “a proportionate and evidence-based legislative framework” could help protect consumers and create a “level playing field for competition”.1

Direct Lobbying

In March 2019, JTI gave a written submission to a consultation on the review of tobacco control legislation in Australia. It urged the government to adopt different regulations for e-cigarettes, and other RRPs, offering to “provide information on how tobacco control legislation could be improved in Australia to benefit public health” and cited Better Regulation principles.38
For more examples of how tobacco companies have used ‘Better Regulation’ arguments against tobacco control measures see EU Better Regulation.
JTI had submitted a response to a previous enquiry in Australia in 2017, using the ‘consumer choice’ argument: “JTI believes in the freedom of adults to choose whether they wish to use electronic cigarettes and that no one should use them unless he or she understands the risks associated with doing so.”39 As of September 2019, a full ban on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in Australia remained in place.37

Indirect Lobbying

JTI is a member of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and has a position on the board.40 UKVIA lobbied against e-cigarette regulation at the 8th WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP 8) in 2018. For more information see UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA).
On 14 October 2019, JTI sponsored a fringe event at the Scottish National Party conference. The event was titled “Where Next for Vaping In Scotland” and was chaired by John Lee from the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, with speakers listed as Scottish Members of Parliament (MSPs) Emma Harper (convener of the Health and Sport Committee) and John Mason (member of the Cross Party Group on Independent Convenience Stores) and Andy Morrison from the New Nicotine Alliance.41

Market Share and Global Expansion Plans

In 2018, JTI’s e-cigarettes accounted for 75% of the value of the company’s trade in RRPs (its HTPs having the smaller share).15 According to market research company Euromonitor International, JTI had a 2.8% share of the global e-cigarette market, down from 4.1% in 2014.24 Over the same period the market had doubled in value from US$6.8 billion to over US$15.6 billion.42
Like the other international tobacco companies, JTI lost market share in the US to JUUL Labs between 2015 and 2018 (from 8.5% to 3.2%, although the value of the US market also more than doubled).2442 Between 2016 and 2018, JTI maintained its share in the UK (around 6.5%) and increased it in Russia and Ireland, from 1.5% and 3% respectively to around 10% in each.24

Sales Strategy

By the end of 2018, JTI was selling its products in 11 countries.15 In its 2018 annual report it announced its intention to expand sales of the Compact device to a further 13 countries in 2019, “prioritizing the markets that matter the most”.15 In November 2019, with the launch of Compact in Portugal, it had reached 20 countries.30
JTI’s approach in the UK included specialist retail trade websites targeted specifically at shop owners and “Logic Champions” to help them maximise their sales. JTI’s Head of Reduced Risk Products, Nick Geens, advised retailers that e-cigarette products should be displayed next to tobacco products: “Once stores expand their vaping range …it is best to move to a category solution where vaping and tobacco products are displayed in the same gantry to ensure quick service time and repeat custom.”43

Tobacco Remains Central

Traditional tobacco products remain central to JTI’s business. A 2019 presentation to investors made clear that the company’s strategy aimed to deliver returns “by strengthening conventional tobacco products, the main driver of our profit growth”.44

TobaccoTactics Resources

References

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