UK Pharmacies are now debating if they should offer electronic cigarettes for sale along other nicotine products. While they may not compete with a vape shop by selling e-liquid, putting a disposable ecigarette on the shelf, for instance, is something that could happen more often.
This was one topic that was discussed at the recent Pharmacy Show in the city of Birmingham in the UK. A panel included Vapestick CEO Michael Clapper who insisted, “In today’s climate, the vast majority of pharmacies need to offer a greater variety of products than ever before in order to remain competitive and commercially viable.”
The UK already has over 2 million e-cigarette users and that number will grow, making the market too lucrative to be ignored. The pushback could come from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, who prefers nicotine products that are already approved switching tools.
Products like Voke, a nicotine inhaler sold by British American Tobacco, area already sold at pharmacies as part of their offerings to consumers of nicotine. Nicotine in e-liquid, on the other hand, is generally shunned and left to vape shop owners to market.
This is a potentially huge market that pharmacies are missing out on, not to mention all the good that ecigarettes can potentially do for the public. But even from only a business perspective, not offering electronic cigarettes for sale means pharmacy owners are forfeiting a growth opportunity.
Ecigs In The UK
Major retailers are already involved in ecigs in the uk. There are those who already have certain items, like a disposable ecigarettes, stocked in their stores, such as some of the pharmacy giant Boots branches.
A great deal of the other pharmacies are either staying out of the market completely, or are on the fence about it.
Clapper was doing everything he could to make those on the fence understand how him and others at Vapestick see things. His points are hard to argue with.
He bluntly told other delegates, “When it comes to e-cigarettes, they are just an alternative category that naturally fits into any pharmacy.” He also explained that pharmacies will lose customers that would otherwise choose them over a vape shop because they are a more respected destination to fill their nicotine needs.
Anthony Cox apparently wasn’t convinced by what he had heard. Cox lectures at the University of Birmingham on the topic of clinical pharmacy. From his perspective, his industry “should be looking for medicinally licensed products to help smoking prevention and reduce the harms from cigarettes. “ Cox would rather that, “Not to try to jump on the back of the bandwagon that is obviously making a lot of money.”
The risk factor was part of that discussion, as is always is the case, but some delegates such as Martin Dockrell, who is Public Health England’s tobacco control lead, were more open to the idea. He wouldn’t give them an overall okay, but he also understood the advantages they have over traditional tobacco cigarettes.
From our vantage point, it seems pretty reasonable that more pharmacies would offer electronic cigarettes for sale. Not only is it a good business move, but it could introduce a lot of smokers to a product that could change their lifestyle completely. The problem for us with this move isn’t about them stocking e-cigs, but potentially which e-cigs they choose to sell.
There are plenty of products out there that don’t maximize the potential of e-cigarettes, offering a subpar experience and usually at a higher cost. This isn’t the case for all, but most of what we consider the top rated e-cigarettes don’t have a big retail presence yet. Some smokers will further seek out an e-cigarette that works for them, a lot will be turned off entirely with their first experience. Unfortunately, a lot of people miss out on what could be a huge opportunity for them because of this.
Seeing e-cigarettes on store shelves is never a bad thing, because the extra exposure is certainly a good thing for the electronic cigarette movement. We just hope that the pharmacies that do sell ecigarettes will offer consumers some good choices from among quality ecigs, like the ones they can find online already. When all is said and done, the more smokers that can get excited about e-cigarettes, the better the world will be.