BLOWING SMOKE –
Feb. 20, 2021 – According to a wide-ranging report by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, it has also attracted younger adults, non-smokers and even reached the eyes of children.
An employee of a public relations firm engaged by BAT in Kenya was so concerned about the bureau’s report into its marketing practices that they offered a reporter a bribe for inside information about it.
BAT has cut ties with the company concerned and is investigating the incident. But it stands by the marketing practices that it hopes will capture the fast-growing stream of revenue from e-cigarettes and vapes – not to mention the nicotine pouches beloved of TikTok influencers.
BAT makes much of how such products are helping adult smokers switch to less harmful alternatives, under the slogan “A Better Tomorrow”.
By 2023, the company expects to be targeting 500 million nicotine consumers with £100bn a year to spend. Products other than cigarettes are driving much of that growth. Financial results released last week showed an annual pre-tax profit of £8.7bn as “non-combustible” products began contributing to earnings for the first time. The number of customers using them jumped by 3 million to 13.5 million, as the pandemic sparked a migration from cigarettes to more lung-friendly nicotine-delivery methods.
However, such products are far from risk-free and the trend for promoting them via social media and popular influencers is causing concern.
TikTok videos featuring attractive young people promoting BAT’s nicotine pouches, under the brand names Velo and Lyft, seem to have gone down particularly well with youngsters. The caption on one TikTok video from Sweden in which Lyft pouches feature prominently, reads: “Every basic bitch in Sweden between the age of 14 and 23.” Clad in futuristic packaging, they are seen as a fresh alternative to more traditional tobacco pouches known as “Snus”.