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The UK has stringent tobacco control legislation, which has been extended most recently to include standardised packaging with minimum pack sizes,1 and from 20 May 2020, a ban on menthol.2 3 However, this legislation applies only to cigarettes and roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco.
In January 2020, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) launched a new product onto the market that bypasses these laws. Sterling Dual Capsule Leaf Wrapped (figure 1) are officially being sold as cigarillos,4 which are defined by law as a cigar (a roll of tobacco with an outer wrapper of tobacco) with a maximum weight of 3 g.5 6 These new ‘cigarillos’ are clearly aimed at cigarette smokers, and closely resemble cigarettes. The outer leaf wrapping, required for a cigarillo classification, covers a cigarette-like paper tube that contains the tobacco and appears to provide the main structure (figure 2). This is not prohibited by the cigar/cigarillo definition but does highlight its cigarette-like nature.5 6 Indeed, the cigarillo sticks are of a similar size to a cigarette, use Virginia blend tobacco7 like cigarettes, and contain a filter and crushball menthol flavour capsule—features that are highly unusual in cigarillos but common in cigarettes. Furthermore, the brand name almost exactly mirrors the Sterling Dual Capsule cigarette that was recently banned (figure 1). As of April 2019, Sterling is the second most popular cigarette brand in the UK according to Nielsen, and the Sterling Dual Capsule cigarette variant launched in 2018 rapidly became the fastest growing capsule product.8 In the launch press release, JTI linked the cigarillo to cigarettes and clearly aimed to capitalise on Sterling’s popularity. Indeed, it implied that it is an unconventional type of leaf-wrapped cigarette.7 At least one outlet included this new cigarillo in the tobacco price list alongside cigarettes and RYO, …