Magazine article Marketing

Sector Insight: Smoking Cessation - Smoke-Free Zone

Magazine article Marketing

Sector Insight: Smoking Cessation - Smoke-Free Zone

Article excerpt

Nicotine replacement aids are more popular than ever as pressure increases on smokers to quit.

THE BACKGROUND

Smoking has been in decline in the UK since the 70s. In 1974, about half of all adults smoked cigarettes regularly, but that figure has since fallen to a quarter. Since the dangers of smoking were established in the 40s, ads and on-pack warnings have strongly communicated the benefits of quitting. The first nicotine gum was unveiled in 1980, followed by innovations such as nicotine replacement patches. With a ban on smoking in public becoming more likely, nicotine replacement therapy manufacturers are well-placed to reap the benefits of the current shift in public attitudes.

The 'quit season', as it is known, runs from 1 January to National No Smoking Day on the second Wednesday in March, and is the peak season for sales of smoking cessation products. In 2003 retail value sales of smoking cessation aids was pounds 80m, up from pounds 50m in 1999, according to Mintel.

Nick Lagan, marketing manager at market leader Nicorette, says: 'The quit season is hugely important. There is a 200%-300% rise in sales during this period. Our research suggests that up to 40% of smokers are planning to quit this new year. Smokers are very focused at this time and of those planning to quit, 58% are considering using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).'

About 27% of men and 25% of women in the UK regularly smoke cigarettes - about 13m adults - and 43% of those have tried to give up.

The focus on getting established smokers to quit the habit has never been higher, as the European ban on tobacco advertising has been followed by a wave of interest in the outlawing of smoking in public places - such a ban will come into force in Scotland from 2006, and last October Liverpool City Council voted in favour of a ban.

This is good news for the nicotine replacement market, as it is those who have resolved to quit who form the core target market for manufacturers.

NRTs, which are available over the counter (OTC), are designed to wean smokers off the habit by providing a measured dose of nicotine without the smoke and tar of a cigarette. These products come in the form of chewing gum, tablets, lozenges, skin patches, inhalators and nasal sprays.

Method options

Consumers tend to choose which method to use according to their behavioural habits, as well as their level of dependence on cigarettes.

Patches and gum products dominate the market, with patches accounting for 44% of value sales in 2003. Whereas patches provide a slow, controlled release of nicotine, gum gives a quick hit of the substance and is used to control sudden cravings.

Inhalator products are designed to mimic the 'hand to mouth' action of a cigarette and therefore address the physical habit or behavioural side of smoking.

OTC sales of patches are predicted to be pounds 40m for 2004 by Mintel, an increase of 78% since 1999. Patches are available in various strengths, relating to how many cigarettes the person intending to quit normally smokes each day.

The patches are often accompanied by a step-by-step programme that helps users gradually reduce the nicotine hit. These campaigns can include in-pack leaflets, direct mail and, increasingly, online resources and communities of people trying to give up smoking, such as NiQuitin CQ's click2quit.co.uk website. Branded support programmes of this type help to maintain category sales.

Nicotine replacement gum, which is also available in different strengths, tends to appeal to younger consumers and is often the product with which people begin their attempts to quit. Consumers use it to control their craving for a cigarette, and it is easy to have on hand and use in social situations. The disadvantage is that despite the development of various flavoured gum products, the peppery taste of nicotine is hard to disguise. …

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