Is snuff good enough?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cigarette, Nicotine

Many of your smokers will not want to give up tobacco in time for the smoking ban. But you can at least encourage them to make their habit as...

Many of your smokers will not want to give up tobacco in time for the smoking ban. But you can at least encourage them to make their habit as smoke-free as every pub in the UK will be after July 1.

Publicans looking to hold on to their customers are tapping into a re-emerging market where smokeless alternatives keep the hardened smoker in the pub and their cravings at bay.

While there is nothing to stop smokers from venturing outside for a post-ban puff between pints, others might seek salvation in a pint and a pinch of snuff ­ a finely ground form of tobacco which delivers far more of a nicotine hit than cigarettes and is consumed by snorting.

Sales of snuff are on the up. Gone are the days of snuff being the preserve of the elite.

The Albion in Haggerston, East London, introduced snuff three months ago and it has since found favour with the pub¹s regulars.

"It is now perceived as being a new social trend that you can share with friends," says Dave Chapman, licensee at the Albion. "We actually have more users from the younger generations than from the older generation ­ and women as well, which is a great surprise."

A dozen flavours

Chapman introduced snuff in an attempt to minimise potential fears of a downturn in trade after the ban is enforced. He now stocks a dozen flavours ranging from whiskey to the traditional mentholated choices to provide a pinch of variety for his customers ­ 85 per cent of whom are smokers.

While it is not claimed to be a highly lucrative revenue stream for publicans, snuff will keep nicotine cravings at bay ­ keeping smokers inside sniffing and drinking instead of outside smoking. Most tins of snuff retail at between £1.25 and £3, depending on the flavour and strength, and unlike its cigarette equivalent, a little goes a long way.

"It's not going to make anyone a fortune ­ but you do get a good return on it. Snuff is very cheap and end-of-the market but it will be a good way to keep smokers in the pub drinking," says Chapman.

Keeping it legal

But despite its smokeless credentials, the same laws apply to selling snuff as regular tobacco. It cannot be given to the customer as part of a promotion, nor sold to anyone under the age of 16.

As Valerie Walter, licensee of the Devonshire Arms in Bedford, found out, her 'pinch and a pint' promotion which allowed customers a free pinch of snuff with their drink, fell foul of the law.

What started off as 'a bit of fun' a few weeks ago caught the attention of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), who advised her that making snuff freely available breached the terms of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act.

A variety of flavours were on offer, ranging from the traditional mentholated varieties to a chocolate-flavoured offering aiming to appeal to ladies.

"Its a very nice idea but unfortunately giving it away is not an option ­ just like giving away cigarettes is not an option,² says Martin Dockrell, policy and campaigns manager for ASH. "It's tricky for publicans to make such products available to their customers."

But despite its legal restrictions ­ not to mention the risk of cancer of the nose for heavy and regular users ­ switching to snuff is seen to be a step in the right direction.

"Snuff is very effective in helping smokers manage their cravings," says Dockrell.

"But pubs are going to have to be particularly imaginative in how they respond to the new legislation."

Dockrell feels that publicans who are properly prepared for the ban will be at an immediate advantage and recommends that making nicotine replacement patches, gum and inhalers available will be both good for business and desirable for smokers wanting to kick the habit.

The prospect of snuff¹s revival has been welcomed by McChrystal¹s, a traditional manufacturer of snuff for the past 80 years, which has seen a steady increase of interest from pubs and regular consumers alike.

Ian McChrystal, the third generation in line to run the business, said it enjoyed a 20 per cent sales increase last year and is looking forward to further gains.

"I think it will be a good alternative in pubs because people will still get their nicotine. The smoking ban cannot fail to help us," he adds.

"I am very optimistic about the future of snuff and we are selling to more and more pubs".

If the smoking ban really is going to be a positive for the trade, encouraging non-smokers to enjoy a new era of smokeless pubs, selling snuff will be one way to hang on to your smokers, by encouraging them to kick the habit completely or switch to an alternative while they are in the pub.

A smokeless alternative not to be sniffed at.

The law

If you decide to stock snuff before or after the smoking ban, remember that it is subject to the same laws as tobacco. Under the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act:

  • Iit is illegal to offer it free on promotion ­ it is illegal to sell it to those under the age of 16.

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