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Cigarette-like cigarillo introduced to bypass taxation, standardised packaging, minimum pack sizes, and menthol ban in the UK
  1. J Robert Branston1,2,
  2. Rosemary Hiscock2,
  3. Karin Silver2,
  4. Deborah Arnott3,
  5. Anna B Gilmore2
  1. 1School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  2. 2Tobacco Control Research Group, Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  3. 3Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr J Robert Branston, School of Management, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK; J.R.Branston{at}

Statistics from

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, …

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  • Contributors ABG, RH, KS, and JRB: conceived the original idea for the paper. All authors contributed to drafting and editing of the paper, developed ideas for policy responses, and approved the final version. ABG: spotted the cigarillos on sale. RH and KS: obtained background relevant evidence on industry behaviour via the retail press, UK government documents, and wider internet. RH: weighed cigarillos and components. DA: confirmed the tax and regulatory status of cigarillos. JRB: wrote the first draft of the paper and performed the tax analysis.

  • Funding This work was supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products project funding (, and by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (MR/S037519/1), which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, Natural Environment Research Council, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland), The Health Foundation, and Wellcome.

  • Competing interests JRB owns 10 shares in Imperial Brands for research purposes. The shares were a gift from a public health campaigner and are not held for financial gain or benefit. All dividends received are donated to tobacco/health related charities, and proceeds from any future share sale or takeover will be similarly donated.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article

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