Flavour capsule cigarette variants (FCVs), which allow users to customise their smoking experience and reduce the harshness of smoking, have captured an increasing share of many markets. We examined tobacco companies’ argument that such product innovations aim simply to shift market share, by estimating smokers’ and susceptible non-smokers’ responses to FCVs.
We conducted an online survey of 425 smokers (daily and non-daily), susceptible non-smokers (n=224) and former smokers (n=166) aged between 18 and 25. Restrpondents completed a choice experiment, a behavioural probability measure and a perception task. We analysed the choice data using a conditional logistic regression and a rank-ordered logistic regression, and the probability and perception data using t-tests and descriptive statistics.
Non-smokers preferred an FCV relative to an unflavoured cigarette, whereas the opposite was the case for smokers. Susceptible non-smokers and former smokers were more likely to try a fruit flavoured FCV than an unflavoured stick, while daily smokers were more likely than non-daily smokers to do the same. Susceptible non-smokers, former smokers and non-daily smokers also had more positive perceptions of FCVs relative to unflavoured sticks than did daily smokers.
FCVs appeal more to non-smokers than to smokers, and more to non-daily smokers than to daily smokers. They thus appear likely to recruit non-smokers and potentially increase overall smoking prevalence. Policy responses include ensuring standardised packaging legislation disallows FCVs by specifically regulating the appearance and design of tobacco products, or introducing bespoke regulation that addresses the threat posed by FCVs.