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British American Tobacco (BAT) and retail merchandising: Vype e-cigarette promotion in Ontario, Canada
  1. Timothy Dewhirst
  1. Marketing and Consumer Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Timothy Dewhirst, Marketing and Consumer Studies, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada; dewhirst{at}

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Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were initially offered by many independent producers, but multinational tobacco companies, which have notable marketing budgets, have increasingly acquired e-cigarette brands and developed their own ‘next generation products.’1 In the USA, for example, the top-selling e-cigarette brands during 2018 were JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen XL, Blu and Logic, which collectively accounted for a 97% market share.2 3 With the exception of JUUL, the leading e-cigarette brands were all produced by multinational tobacco companies. While JUUL is the evident brand leader by possessing an estimated 72% market share, Altria bought a 35% minority ownership of the e-cigarette producer for $12.8 billion in December 2018.4–6 Specialty vape shops were initially the standard for acquiring e-cigarettes, but convenience stores are emerging as key retailers given the established distribution channels of multinational tobacco companies.

British American Tobacco (BAT) is the parent company of Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited—Canada’s largest producer of combustible cigarettes with an approximate 51% market share—and offers Vype among their portfolio of ‘next generation products.’7 8 As seen in figure 1, Vype promotions have circulated in Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, since August 2018, being placed on petrol pumps at Esso as well as the exterior and interior of affiliated Circle K convenience stores. Within the convenience store, promotional signage and displays for Vype e-cigarettes can also be seen (figures 2–4), including directly behind the cash register at point of sale (POS) and situated where conventional cigarettes and tobacco products are stored for sale. Like previously observed for tobacco retail merchandising, the display and advertisement locations for e-cigarettes are often at low-eye levels adjacent to candy, which suggests that their reach includes young consumers.9–13 Moreover, the juxtaposition of e-cigarette promotions with those of milk and sweet-flavoured beverages serves to normalise the product and build …

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  • Contributors TD solely contributed to the writing and analysis of the study.

  • Competing interests TD is an Associate Editor of Tobacco Control with respect to Product Marketing and Promotion. He has served as an expert witness in tobacco and vaping litigation on behalf of governments whose policies have undergone constitutional challenges.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.