Smoke-free Scotland edges closer

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As Scotland finally loses its unenviable crown as the smoking capital of the UK, is a smoke-free Scotland now looking like a realistic possibility?

Scotland has long held the dubious privilege of being the smoking capital of the UK but in a little publicised development last month, the country finally shed that dubious crown. According to new data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of over-18s in Scotland who smoked had fallen to 15.4% last year. The number has fallen consistently since 2011, when it stood at 23.4%, and the news meant that, for the first time, Scotland is longer the UK’s smoking capital.

Granted, the new figures put Scotland just 0.2% ahead of the new UK smoking crown holders Northern Ireland who sit at 15.6% and 0.1% ahead of Wales at 15.5% – but it’s still a significant development.

As the Scottish Government remains committed to a smoke-free Scotland by 2034, that goal looks slightly less unlikely than it has for a long while.

The survey also put the number of vapers at nearly three million, or 5.7% of the population. However, the bad news for the vaping category is that this is down from 6.3% in 2018, although ONS number crunchers said the difference was not “statistically significant”.

What is significant is that the category has effectively stalled. Only 3.7% of the population vaped in 2014, when data collection began. After two years of increases, there has been no real rise since 2016, when the figure stood at 5.6%.

Next month’s annual Stoptober campaign however is another chance for Scotland’s local retailers to help more Scots kick the tobacco habit and shift to something a lot less harmful. Vaping is widely regarded as one of the most efficient ways of shifting shoppers out of cigarettes and RYO and, as Public Health England repeatedly reiterates, vaping is 95% safer than smoking tobacco.

The recent Menthol Ban in May should also provide a boost to the nicotine replacement categories although, at this early stage, it doesn’t appear to have had as dramatic an effect as many had predicted, or hoped.


Thankfully, the range of options available to retailers to help their customers get off the ciggies, however, is getting wider by the day.

The vaping category is now reasonably well established, and most stores will offer at least a basic range, often from the biggest brands like Logic, blu, JUUL and Vype; the inexorable shift towards ‘pod mod’ systems seems clear.

There are still many vapers who prefer their big ‘mods’ and creating their own concoctions at home but new legislation and pure convenience means that more and more shoppers are looking for a simpler ‘click and play’ solution that involves a minimum of fuss and mess.

The options for local retailers are basically twofold: stock a good basic range that will cater for most vapers, or go all in and become ‘famous’ for vaping in the local area by stocking a much wider range of products, including devices, liquids and accessories.

It’s a complicated category however, so going ‘all in’ requires a fair bit of research and a lot of training. Buying a new pack of pods for a JUUL device or a Logic unit is a straightforward transaction, but dealing with complex queries from shoppers around sub-ohm mods, shortfills, drippers, coils and much more requires a greater degree of commitment to making the category work in-store.

The key here is training but there’s plenty of support available.


One newish category that could prove interesting to retailers now and in the near future is nicotine pouches. These are popular in other parts of the world, particularly Scandinavia, and offer extreme convenience in that they can be used anywhere, anytime – including in places where vaping is off limits like on public transport, at the office or even behind the till.

Smoke- and tobacco-free, nicotine pouches have shown to be extremely popular with the single biggest challenge being how to encourage shoppers to give them a try.

The brand making the biggest headway in nicotine pouches is Nordic Spirit from JTI, the runaway leader.

Launched into the UK just over a year ago, the product has found a solid base of users and is set to grow further with a recent relaunch and rebrand and launch of a new flavour, Elderflower.

The new line joins existing variants Mint and Bergamot Wildberry. All three are available in 6mg and 9mg strengths, with an RSP of £6.50 for 20 pouches.

Key changes to the design include enlarging the brand name, in particular ‘Nordic’, to emphasise the product’s deep connection to its Swedish heritage. Additionally, the varying strengths are now represented with four hexagons in line with other products in the category for consistency and ease for the customer.

Stephane Berset, JTI’s UK Head of Marketing, comments: “Since its launch in 2019, we have seen Nordic Spirit go from strength to strength as more adult smokers and vapers look for alternative nicotine products.”

Berset says the rapidly evolving category, already worth £380,410 a month, presents a “huge” profit opportunity.

“We would urge retailers nationwide to incorporate Nordic Spirit into their offering as the category continues to flourish,” he adds.

Get social

To squeeze some benefits out of Stoptober month, retailers need to shout about it to the shoppers and the easiest way of doing that is on social media.

Why not run a campaign during September incentivising your shoppers to try giving up tobacco next month and remind them of the alternative solutions you have available.

As well as helping your shoppers improve their health, a social media campaign like this could also help simply draw attention to the fact that you stock a vaping and nicotine replacement range so that shoppers who have already quit know that they can get what they need at your store.

It’s a great opportunity for you to engage with community, demonstrate that you care about their health and wellbeing, and also shift them into higher margin products that will still drive footfall levels similar to tobacco products.