Alternative products are helping to shape the future of convenience store tobacco sets.

Convenience Store Decisions

By Lou Maiellano.

Imagine, if you will, that European explorers land in Africa, North America or South America in the 14th, 15th or 16th centuries. Upon landing, these explorers find the inhabitants of these exotic new lands drinking a strange, energizing brew and smoking the dried beans of a native tree in hand carved pipes.

But in this case, the brew is from tobacco and the smoke is from the coffee bean. The beverage delivers the energizing effects of nicotine and the pipe delivers the stimulation of caffeine in its rich, aromatic smoke. Given that set of facts in this brief, retelling of the history of the new world, how would today’s world be different? I think we know.

Today we would be looking at ever-increasing taxes, restrictions and bans directed at coffee smokers—who more than a century ago began enjoying the dried beans in a manufactured form that looks suspiciously like what we call cigarettes today. These taxes, bans and restrictions would be the result of years and years of studies that have revealed that smoking coffee causes cancers of the lung and other respiratory organs in the primary user and in those exposed to the smoke of the user. And given the effects of caffeine, we could expect that caffeine would be labeled a dangerous, addictive drug, responsible for endangering the health of billions of people worldwide.

Fear not, for the world’s pharmaceutical giants have come to the rescue, developing and marketing a variety of products claiming to cure your smoking disease through an arcane therapy called caffeine replacement.

On the other hand, nicotine, the active ingredient in the tobacco brew would be isolated and added to beverages of every kind and every flavor and made available to men, women and children of all ages.

Clouding the Issues
If you followed this fable so far, you can see where I am going. Today’s real world attitude toward tobacco is misdirected and ill-founded. It’s not what is being smoked; it’s that it is being smoked. Study after study has verified that the constituents and particulates present in the smoke are the culprits in the public health crisis related to cigarette smoking. That’s why the single most important research that focuses on tobacco usage and addiction is centered on the notion of harm reduction—eliminate the smoke, reduce the harm. We have come to understand that where there’s smoke, there’s danger.

Now let me take you into a future that seems pre-destined. Sooner or later, I have to believe that common sense will eventually prevail. Informed and insightful citizens will come to understand that tobacco is not the problem, that nicotine is not the problem. The problem is IGNITION, BURNING and SMOKE. Common sense will dictate that citizens will have the right to enjoy tobacco and nicotine in safer and saner forms—snus, sticks, orbs, beverages and electronic vaporizing devices. These methods of conveyance will be no more harmful than caffeine drinks or energy shots.

Today, given the success that an electronic cigarette importer has had in suing the FDA, we can expect to see new and novel methods of conveying the effect of tobacco and nicotine. Already we have seen sales of snus increase. Sticks and orbs now appear throughout the retail supply chain and recent reports suggest that electronic cigarette sales in the U.S. are approaching $200 million on an annual basis. And these are all tobacco products, not the over-priced and over-hyped products of the conflicted pharmaceutical industry.

Cigarette alternatives, containing tobacco and nicotine are the products of the future. It’s not too early to begin to consider where they should be placed at retail and how they should be merchandised because the future is now if you’re in the tobacco trade.
Lou Maiellano spent more than 20 years in several operational positions with Sunoco, Mobil and Wawa and currently operates TobaccoToday (, an interactive tobacco industry blog. He can be reached at (267) 229-3856 or via email at

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