What is VApril?
When it comes to a time for retailers to focus on increasing their vape sales, three months stand out. At the start of every year, new year’s resolutions mean plenty of people turn to vapes to try and help wean themselves off cigarettes. Furthermore, the NHS backed Stoptober campaign has been going for 12 years, and vapes have become a more relevant part of it as their popularity has grown. The third chance for retailers to push the next-gen category comes in the form of VApril, the annual campaign from the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA).
Having run the campaign since 2017, the trade body describes it as “the world’s largest vaping awareness and education campaign”. “As more adult smokers make the switch to vaping, retailers should take advantage of the opportunity VApril presents to increase sales,” says Chris Aikens, external affairs manager at Relx International. “The month-long campaign gives retailers the opportunity to capitalise on an influx of adult consumers looking to switch from combustible cigarettes to vaping.” Avtar Sidhu, of St John’s Budgens in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, believes the campaign is more important than ever, as the effects of the cost-of-living crisis compound people’s misgivings about their smoking habits. “This year, we’ll probably hit it harder than ever, especially with the price of cigarettes having gone up a lot,” he says. “Alternatives have never looked so attractive.”
“We know many smokers are confused and often worried by all the misinformation about vaping which bombards them on a daily basis. VApril aims to set the record straight and help put their minds at rest about making the switch. Not only does it provide resources to help smokers begin their vaping journey, but also gives them the help and encouragement they need along the way.
VApril gives them the facts about vaping, allows them to get their questions answered and gives them that final push they may need to give up smoking. “We understand that – just like smokers – many retailers do not have the knowledge to answer the questions that people may have when they are considering switching to vaping, but VApril has that covered. “Emphasising the savings that they could make simply by switching to vaping could be important because research shows that pricing is a major factor for many in deciding to switch. Also, given the tough economic times currently upon us, the savings to be made from switching to vaping might be more important than ever for many smokers.”
How to get involved
By now, nearly every convenience retailer has a vaping range of some description, especially now that disposables have made the category more accessible to curious smokers. The category is worth £1.2bn in the UK, with 35% of vape sales taking place in the convenience channel. Conversely, there are about 6.6 million smokers in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics, the lowest number since records began. These smokers are likely to be more committed, so signing up to VApril gives retailers the means to convince them to make the switch. “By signing up to the event, retailers will have access to the VApril 2023 Dropbox, which will provide all the resources they will need to really make the most out of VApril activities throughout the month,” says John Dunne, director general of the UKVIA. “They may wish to organise in-store masterclasses or special ‘clinics’ for those customers looking to transition from smoking to vaping for the fi rst time.” The month should be used as a chance to stoke people’s curiosity, adds Hannah Rubery, content writer at Pod Salt. “The average smoker isn’t likely to know what VApril means,” she says. “Creating a campaign that gets customers asking the question ‘what is VApril?’ is a good way to start. “Think along the lines of creating a promotion for a discount on starter kits or bundles by quoting ‘VApril’.”
With a potential influx of novice vapers, retailers and their staff need to be ready to answer the key questions about the category, namely around safety and affordability. “Recently, it was once again confirmed in an evidence review in the UK that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking,” says Rubery. “You may also hear questions about whether vapes cause popcorn lung or contain diacetyl, which you can confidently reply that diacetyl is a banned chemical in legal vapes sold in the UK. “The same goes for any questions about vitamin E acetate, another banned compound that sometimes crops up in questions about vaping.” While disposables are the simplest vaping devices to introduce to someone, they may not be the most appropriate depending on their smoking habit, adds Rubery. “Other common questions will likely cover the basics, such as ‘I smoke this amount, what strength should I use and how much?’,” Rubery says. In answer to this, the general response is a disposable device equates to a pack of 20 cigarettes, and a 10ml bottle of e-liquid is five times this amount, so will likely last a heavy smoker several days, whereas a disposable device may only last the day.” Sidhu says the campaign is also an opportunity to expound the benefits of the broader nextgen category, such as nicotine pouches and heated tobacco. “We’ll do some specific activity around Velo and Nordic Spirit,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, anything that offers you an alternative to traditional tobacco is that category.”
Spreading the word
As with any seasonal occasion, getting the word out ahead of time is a crucial part of making VApril a success. “Retailers should look to advertise VApril at least several weeks beforehand, especially in the current climate, where customers are looking to tighten their expenditure,” says Rubery. “Let your customers know VApril is around the corner and that there will be offers to entice them.” Suppliers are currently gearing up their own marketing plans surrounding the month, so retailers should look to work with them on bespoke PoS and deals on starter devices. “During the campaign, retailers can offer multibuy deals that allow customers to try new devices while saving money, as well as stocking up on their favourite products,” says Relx’s Aikens. “Promotions like two for-£ 10 and three-for-£15 will help secure repeat custom from adult consumers, confident that they can get their favourite products for a reasonable price.”
Key facts about vaping and quitting smoking from the UKVIA
- Vaping helps around 50,000 smokers quit each year (Public Health England, 2021)
- Vaping is 70% more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (Cochrane Review, 2020)
- E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco or produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke (NHS Smokefree)