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Our ashtray antics

Anti-smoking products are lucrative, but how sought after are they?

Great globules of awareness-boosting endeavour are lavished these days on the giving up smoking 'challenge' - if you're a prospective habit kicker - or 'debate', if smoking never caught on for you.

Nicotine replacement therapies available for consumers come in all shapes and sizes, rather like AA Milne's heffalumps; and yet, in all their adventures, Piglet and Pooh never caught one. This was not for the want of trying, but if you met them in a bar today they'd burn through a pack of 20 `lights between them quick as Christopher Robin could get up the stairs. Eyore's on SSRIs.

The well-buried point is that despite smoking bans in many public places across Europe, despite companies ploughing time, effort and money into developing new, as well as incrementally innovative products and formulations, and in spite of the nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) marketplace expanding by some 50 per cent in the last five years, from some angles it seems to smack of a campaignLight.

For every £1 spent on pricey NRT products, we in Britain still cough up £130 on cigarettes. This year alone, the tobacco industry expects quite realistically to sell some 49 billion ciggies (the equivalent of 2.45bn packets of 20).

In the last five years, according to economic analysts Mintel, volume sales of duty-paid fags have dropped not by 60 per cent, or 50, or not even by a fifth. Just 12 per cent in fact, which, while representing a honey pot in financial terms, is not, in Parliamentarian language, proportionately indicative of the achievement we set out to accomplish from the outset.

That is less than 2.5 per cent a year on average, which questions the impact of NRT products on the smoking population, the majority of which seem happy to keep inhaling from Satan's pipe. Just 13 per cent of smokers questioned by Mintel, as part of its exclusive consumer research, said that they would stop if a ban were introduced.

Other research, highlighted by Shire Health London, shows that a significant 79 per cent of smokers who participated in a No Smoking Day all relapsed within just one month.

Apparently, smokers typically need to try six or seven times before they finally manage to go clean.

All of this makes for an interesting angle, but Mintel's research was not designed to question the efficacy of smoking cessation activities. The NRT market is estimated to reach £97m this year, breaking through the £100m barrier in 2007 and continuing to grow at a similar rate until 2011, when the market value is set to hit £141m - up by 46 per cent on this year's sales figures.

Perhaps, then, the anti-smoking environment is a bit like beluga caviar; just a little taste will provide you with a rich experience.

2nd September 2008

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