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British American Tobacco has become the first major tobacco company to launch an e-cigarette product in the UK, which retailers believe could be the trigger for other leading manufacturers to follow suit.

The Vype brand e-cig can only currently be bought online, but will made more widely available to independents from September.  It is priced at £6.99 and promises to offer buyers around 130 puffs.

BAT is currently keeping details of a future consumer marketing campaign close it its chest, but has financial resources to dwarf those of  the independent companies that have dominated the market so far.

Crawley retailer Anjali Karpal, believes the arrival of Vype on the market will be beneficial to local stores.

“Having a big name like BAT behind an electronic cigarette brand can only be good news. I think it is something that they should have done a lot sooner, because we are selling a lot of E-Lites in our shops. I think more tobacco companies launch their own brands soon.”

Shahid Razzaq of Mo’s Premier Convenience in Glasgow also expected further product development, but added: “The e-cigs market is already getting saturated with loads of other brands, so another product is not really welcome.

“We already sell Nicolites and E-Lites, and they’re going well for us, but we don’t have room to stock everything.”

The launch of Vype follows BAT’s acquisition of e-cig specialists CN Creative last December. The company is also understood to be looking for an advertising agency to head a marketing campaign for the product.

It also comes months after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regualtory Agency confirmed e-cigs would be regulated as medicine from 2016, which retailers fear could create a two-tier market between licensed and unlicensed products.

BAT confirmed it had no immediate plans to launch Vype into pharmacies.