Background Flavour capsule cigarette variants (FCVs), which allow users to customise their smoking experience and reduce the harshness of smoking, have captured an increasing share of many markets. We examined tobacco companies’ argument that such product innovations aim simply to shift market share, by estimating smokers’ and susceptible non-smokers’ responses to FCVs.
Methods We conducted an online survey of 425 smokers (daily and non-daily), susceptible non-smokers (n=224) and former smokers (n=166) aged between 18 and 25. Restrpondents completed a choice experiment, a behavioural probability measure and a perception task. We analysed the choice data using a conditional logistic regression and a rank-ordered logistic regression, and the probability and perception data using t-tests and descriptive statistics.
Results Non-smokers preferred an FCV relative to an unflavoured cigarette, whereas the opposite was the case for smokers. Susceptible non-smokers and former smokers were more likely to try a fruit flavoured FCV than an unflavoured stick, while daily smokers were more likely than non-daily smokers to do the same. Susceptible non-smokers, former smokers and non-daily smokers also had more positive perceptions of FCVs relative to unflavoured sticks than did daily smokers.
Conclusions FCVs appeal more to non-smokers than to smokers, and more to non-daily smokers than to daily smokers. They thus appear likely to recruit non-smokers and potentially increase overall smoking prevalence. Policy responses include ensuring standardised packaging legislation disallows FCVs by specifically regulating the appearance and design of tobacco products, or introducing bespoke regulation that addresses the threat posed by FCVs.
- public policy
- tobacco industry
- packaging and labelling
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Contributors JAH conceptualised the project and obtained research funding. PG and JAH prepared the questionnaire and JL designed the choice experiments. PG oversaw the data collection. PG and CE analysed the data. JAH and PG led the manuscript development. M-LB and JFT provided feedback on the questionnaire and study design, and on the manuscript. JAH, PG and CE responded to the reviewers' comments. All authors have seen and approved the final version. JAH is guarantor of the manuscript. Authors are listed in descending order of contribution.
Funding This study was funded by University of Otago.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Not required.
Ethics approval An ethics reviewer with delegated authority from the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee reviewed and approved the project as a low-risk study.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.