Given the disparity between the tobacco and vaping industries, seeing the two join forces or otherwise collaborate in any manner is a difficult image to process. The two industries have been waged in a sometimes bitter battle which centers around the viability of vaping as an alternative to smoking. It seems that Big Tobacco may be taking a Trojan Horse approach in the conflict by manufacturing vaping devices and opening its own vape shops.
Big Tobacco Enters the Vaping Arena
British American Tobacco made headlines in December of 2016 by opening a vape shop in Milan, Italy for the purpose of selling its own line of vaporizers. The tobacco brand manufactures vaping devices under the Vype imprint and is using a brick-and-mortar store to introduce the devices to the vaping community.
British American Tobacco is not alone in this new effort to capitalize on the popularity of vaping. Philip Morris International recently opened a similar store in London to launch its IQOS model. The new store joins the brand’s existing vape shops in Switzerland, Japan, and Italy.
Within the past five years, British American Tobacco has spent $1 billion on research and development for its Vype line. The most recent device is the Pebble, an extremely compact vaporizer that fits in the palm. The company has stated that their goal in opening a store is the attempt to create awareness about its products.
Why is Big Tobacco Opening Vape Shops?
Those who support vaping as an alternative to smoking have been quick to criticize the tobacco industry’s manufacture of vaping devices, citing Big Tobacco’s much-maligned reputation. Many feel that tobacco companies are on a nefarious mission to destroy the vaping industry from within. While using a back door to insert itself into the vaping community is something one might expect from tobacco companies, the real reason for this move is probably less conspiratorial and more economical in nature.
Tobacco use is in an overall decline. The trend worldwide has seen a great reduction in the number of people who smoke. Vaping, on the other hand, has continued to grow in popularity. According to the Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association (SFATA), vape shops in the United States average $26,000 per month in sales. The tobacco industry has, in all reality, embraced the age-old philosophy of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Are Big Tobacco Vape Shops a Good Thing?
If the vape shops opened by Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco succeed, it is a reasonable conclusion that other tobacco companies will follow suit. Like any other retail endeavor, tobacco companies are all about sales.
The initial blowback from Big Tobacco’s efforts to create vaping devices is sure to be hostile. The success of e-cigarette manufacturers is, in many ways, bolstered by the notion that vaping is a better option than smoking tobacco. E-cig companies will likely play up the idea that the tobacco industry’s involvement will ultimately disparage vaping and place the vaping industry in the same dire straits that Big Tobacco has been navigating for the past decade.
On the other hand, the tobacco industry has tremendous lobbying power. If they brought that power to bear on behalf of vaping as a smoking alternative, the vaping industry could soar to even greater heights. It may be that the tobacco industry is somewhat confident in its belief that some people will continue to smoke and is looking to get a larger slice of the overall pie.
It has been said that is is wise to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In manufacturing vaping devices, the tobacco industry has seemingly positioned itself to closely monitor vaping trends. Whether or not their vaping devices succeed is another matter altogether. The vaping industry has embraced its own popular brands, and vapers may be leery of Big Tobacco’s involvement.