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Path to Purchase Expo to include Consumer Goods Sales & Marketing Summit

Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 4.49.00 PMThis year’s Path to Purchase Expo (P2PX) will include the co-located Consumer Goods Sales & Marketing Summit (CGSM), adding even more thought leadership and unique business opportunities to the already extensive expo agenda.

Hosted by the Path to Purchase Institute, a sister organization of Convenience Store News Canada, the 2019 Path to Purchase Expo will be held Nov. 13-14 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. P2PX is the world’s largest gathering of brand manufacturers, retailers, agency professionals and solution providers for marketing to shoppers.

By co-locating these events, the expo will bring together the top information technology-focused executives who attend CGSM each year with the leading shopper marketers and consumer engagement specialists who attend P2PX each year.

With the need to leverage technology to drive a deeper understanding of, and stronger relationships with, consumers becoming ever-more critical, there has never been a better time for these two camps to align their strategic thinking.

The speaker lineup for the 14th annual Consumer Goods Sales & Marketing Summit will include such leading industry names as Sandeep Dadlani, chief digital officer of Mars Inc.; Michelle Lam, CEO and co-founder of True&Co.; and veteran industry analyst Shelly Palmer. Among the ranks of its sponsoring solution providers are DXC, Prevedere and UpClear.

In addition to the high-level thought leadership and game-changing solutions they’ve experienced in the past, CGSM attendees will now be able to enjoy more content, more solution providers, and more networking opportunities with a broader array of industry colleagues.

The lineup for the 28th annual Path to Purchase Expo currently boasts more than 100 speakers on five stages and 75-plus solution providers on an all-inclusive show floor. This year, all events are taking place within a uniquely collaborative environment that brings all of the education, exhibits, meals and snack breaks into one “campus.” CGSM attendees will have access to the full P2PX agenda.

For more information and to register, visit path2purchaseexpo.com.

Originally published at Convenience Store News

 


Shutterstock Multicultural foods

New Canadians shape the future of food in Canada

In 2018, Canada admitted more immigrants than at any point over the past 100 years. As Canada’s population ages, immigration is central to infusing youth and vitality into the economy. This, of course, has a wide-ranging impact—not only in terms of how Canada “looks,” but also in terms of what Canadians buy, which includes food and drink.

Shutterstock Multicultural foods

Shutterstock Multicultural foods

While new Canadians bring with them varied preferences in terms of the foods they eat, they also have an impact on the broader population. According to new Mintel research on ethnic food, more than half of Canadians say they view themselves as being “more open to eating international foods than (they were) a few years ago,” with three-quarters (77%) also viewing international foods as being “more mainstream now than they used to be.”

While this demonstrates that Canadians see themselves as being more open to trying a broader range of cuisines, the perceived mainstreaming of international foods also means it’s likely becoming more difficult for grocers to find new products that appeal to those interested in new foods and more adventurous eating experiences. Both these facets rank as the top two reasons why Canadians turn to international foods in the first place.

To appeal to Canadians’ desire for new culinary experiences, grocers can look to what’s less commonly eaten by Canadians. While Chinese and Italian foods rank as the most commonly eaten international cuisines, according to Mintel research, a sizeable swath of consumers is showing interest in exploring a diverse range of other cuisines. In this regard, Caribbean, African and Korean fare represent interesting opportunities for development. With the vast majority of Canadians viewing international foods as a bridge to experiencing other cultures, focusing on cuisines that are less commonly eaten yet garner interest can help grocers stand out.

Having a concerted international foods strategy is critical for today’s grocers. When asked, more than half (56%) of Canadians agree that “grocery stores that don’t offer internationally-inspired foods are not keeping up with the times,” with nearly half also agreeing that they’re “more likely to shop at grocery stores that offer internationally-inspired foods” and two in five claiming they will “go out of their way to travel to stores that offer specific internationally-inspired foods/ingredients.” Chinese Canadians and South Asians are more likely to hold these views.

In terms of product assortments, by their own account South Asians are more likely to want to try internationally- inspired versions of desserts, baked goods, snacks and breakfast foods relative to Canadians overall. This points to the importance of looking beyond the core supper and lunch occasion when considering how to develop or expand offerings that are inspired by other countries.

With immigration contributing greatly to Canada’s population growth, it’s critical for grocers to have a strategy that considers internationally-inspired offerings throughout their stores to appeal to newer (and even not so new) Canadians. It will set them up for success in an evolving consumer landscape.

This column appeared in Canadian Grocer’September/October issue.


Tic Tac® Coca-Cola® mint and its iconic and distinctive boxes

Two iconic brands, one new product

Tic Tac® Coca-Cola® mint and its iconic and distinctive boxes

Tic Tac® Coca-Cola® mint and its iconic and distinctive boxes

The Ferrero Group is introducing Tic Tac Coca-Cola: the result of a unique collaboration between two iconic brands.

This special edition will be available in the next few months in more than 70 countries.

The new product combines the refreshment of Coca-Cola with the packaging of Tic Tac. The introduction of this exclusive limited edition is supported by a 360° global integrated communication plan, including a dedicated TV campaign as well as comprehensive online and social media communication activities.

Tic Tac Coca-Cola is available in three different promotional packs, in terms of size and weight, with a distinctive and impactful graphic, enhancing the strength of this collaboration.


Fast food chains launch store versions of menu items in competitive market

Fast-food fans no longer have to go to – or even order from – their favourite eateries to indulge, as grocery stores now stock a wide array of beloved menu items so superfans can heat up a St-Hubert chicken pot pie, slather on Swiss Chalet gravy sauce or whip up a pot of Tim Hortons homestyle chili at home.

The move to sell restaurant-branded goods in supermarket aisles benefits fast-food chains and grocers as competition for consumers’ attention intensifies.

“This has been a lot of buzz in the industry,” said Robert Carter, a food service analyst with market-research firm NPD Group, of the increasing restaurant fare in grocery stores.

Most recently, Tim Hortons introduced three of its soups and its chili to supermarket shoppers.

The company started selling its cream of broccoli, chicken noodle, and chicken and rice soups, as well as homestyle chili at some retailers in August, said spokeswoman Sarah McConnell in an email.

The four products are now sold at a number of retailers across Canada – including Sobeys, FreshCo and Shoppers Drug Mart – McConnell wrote, adding they plan to make the products available indefinitely as they “do not have a list end date.”

This is not Tim’s first foray into supermarket aisles. In January, the company announced it would start selling instant coffee, as well as iced cappuccino and iced coffee bottled drinks.

It also revealed plans to release a double-double coffee bar, a snack made without chocolate, which the company says will be available in stores later this year.

The coffee-and-doughnut chain is not alone in expanding where it sells its food.

Quebec-based St-Hubert Group first introduced its barbecue sauce to supermarkets in 1965. Since then, the rotisserie restaurant has grown its supermarket aisle to dozens of items, including a variety of fresh and frozen meat pies, chicken wings, cans of poutine gravy, and fresh coleslaw.

The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, a British Columbia-based chain, sells several salad dressings, sauces, marinades and seasonings, as well as ribs, burgers, and bacon-wrapped scallops.

St-Hubert and The Keg’s parent company, Recipe Unlimited, did not respond to a request for comment.

McDonald’s Canada launched Big Mac, McChicken and Filet-O-Fish sandwich sauces for a limited time in 2017 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, wrote spokeswoman Veronica Bart in an email. The bottles sold until supplies ran out, but the burger chain still sells its coffee at grocery stores.

“The competition is becoming so aggressive that all the operators are looking at ways to increase revenue streams,” said Carter.

Recently, restaurant growth has been relatively stagnant, growing a few percentage points every year, according to NPD data. Total quick-service restaurant traffic for the 12 months ending August 2019 grew 2%.

“Grocery is now popping up as a really viable opportunity,” he said.

The move into grocery stores allows chains to increase their distribution, build more brand awareness and create more customer loyalty in and outside of the home, said Carter.

“The bigger you can create your distribution network, the better it’s going to be for your business overall,” he said.

While restaurants remain the most important channel, Tim Hortons regulars also shop elsewhere.

“We also all know that we pick up drinks in convenience stores, and when we do our weekly grocery shopping we are picking up soup and coffee for our homes,” wrote spokeswoman Jane Almeida in an email.

When customers in the supermarket reach for that can of soup, Tim Hortons just wants it to be their can.

While restaurants can benefit from the grocery store arrangement, so can the supermarket chains. Grocery store traffic has been slipping in recent years, said Carter. In an effort to lure shoppers, some supermarkets morphed into grocerants, for example, adding a hot food selection to be consumed on premise.

Grocers are likely keen to bring in products from highly recognizable brands, like Tim Hortons, that may draw more people in, Carter said.


Star Women Awards

CSNC honours winners at inaugural Star Women in Convenience Awards Breakfast

Industry leaders and supports came together to celebrate the 2019 Star Women in Convenience at the inaugural Awards Breakfast hosted by Convenience Store News Canada.

Group brand director Kathryn Swan welcomed attendees from across the country

Group brand director Kathryn Swan welcomed attendees from across the country

“We are encouraged by the response and how the industry has embraced these awards for women,” group brand director, Kathryn Swan said in her opening remarks. “This year’s 17 winners come from all facets of the c-store spectrum—operations, sales, management, distribution and product development. They are incredible examples of women who demonstrate commitment, innovation and leadership in convenience.”

Now in its second year, Convenience Store News’ Star Women Awards recognizes exceptional women making a difference in the convenience industry. The inaugural event was held Oct. 8, 2019 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Keynote speaker and Ipsos VP Kathy Perrotta

Keynote speaker and Ipsos VP Kathy Perrotta

In addition to the awards, attendees were treated to an insightful keynote by Ipsos Canada VP Kathy Perrotta, who delved into trends and habits shaping consumers’ food choices, while highlighting the opportunities for c-stores to up their convenience factor by becoming healthy food and meal destinations for busy Canadians (check out the November/December issue of the magazine for a synopsis of Kathy Perrotta’s keynote).

Star Women Leadership Panel

Star Women Leadership Panel

Tony Chapman of Chapman Reactions moderated the Star Women Leadership Panel, featuring Bonnie Birollo of Circle K, Caroline Evans of JTI-Macdonald, Marie-Helene Jauron of PepsiCo, Wendy Kadlovski of Nicholby’s and Azra Khan of RanaCorp/Shell Canada. It was a dynamic and authentic conversation about the importance of mentorship, taking risks, leading by example and the role the convenience industry plays in community and families.

In addition to honouring the 17 2019 Star Women, the event paid homage to the 2018 winners. The 2018 and 2019 winners travelled from across the country to attend the event, many bringing with them colleagues, friends, family and community leaders.

 

2019 Star Women winners

2019 Star Women winners

For more photos from the event, visit the Star Women website.

Or, keep an eye out for the upcoming November/December issue of Convenience Store News magazine.

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the Star Women in Convenience Awards!


Vaping fallout: Small stores in the U.S. suffer as vapers turn away

The thousands of shops that sprang up in cities and towns across the United States over the past decade to sell vaping products have seen a stunning reversal of fortune, with their sales plunging in just two months amid news reports that vaping has sickened nearly 1,300 people and killed 26.

People who turned to vaping products to help them quit smoking have been turning away, even teenagers who used the products illegally, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says most of the people who suffered lung injuries from vaping were using products containing THC, a component of marijuana.

One estimate says 200 vaping stores have closed, while some owners report the loss of nearly three-quarters of their revenue. Some vape shops have been forced to lay off staff. Many owners, former smokers themselves, fear customers will go back to smoking cigarettes.

Spike Babaian says business is down as much as 70% at her three New York vaping shops since reports about people being sickened by vaping products began appearing in August.

Babaian just closed a fourth store rather than take a chance on renewing her lease. She worries about not being able to recoup the lost revenue.

“We can never undo the government going on the news and saying it’s not safe to vape. The damage has been done,” says Babaian, who has been in business for eight years.

Federal health officials have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of the illnesses and deaths. While they search, they are advising Americans to refrain from using any vaping products.

Steve Nair has had to lay off five of the 40 employees at his eight vaping stores in four states; his sales are down by half.

“I had to meet with them a few weeks ago and say, ‘things aren’t looking good,”’ Nair says.

The stories are similar at the estimated 15,000 to 19,000 small businesses across the country that sell vaporizers and vaping fluids used as a substitute for smoking.

Sales dropped precipitously as customers were frightened away by the first government reports of people sickened or dying after vaping. The CDC has since said most of the nearly 1,300 illnesses reported were due to liquids containing THC, which gives users the high they’re seeking from marijuana. Those products are sold illegally on the black market, not in neighbourhood stores.

Many people are still shying away from mainstream vaping products and the impact on the industry is pronounced. Greg Conley, a spokesman for the American Vaping Association, an industry group, says 200 stores closed since Aug. 1, a number he calls “a conservative estimate.”

Calls by government officials including President Donald Trump and the governors of states including Massachusetts, Michigan and New York for bans on sales of vaping products are increasing owners’ anxiety. A four-month ban on sales is in effect in Massachusetts. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to ban sales of flavoured vaping liquids. Those products are targeted because of their appeal to youthful vapers, but they account for the majority of sales to all users, including adults.

“That would probably put us out of business pretty quickly. We sell only these products; there’s nothing else to fall back on,” says Nair, whose stores include one in Buffalo, New York.

The CDC reported in 2017 that nearly 7 million adults, or 2.8 per cent of the country’s adult population, used vaping products. Last year, it counted 3.6 million middle and high school students who were using vaping products. Under Food and Drug Administration regulations, retailers cannot sell vaping products to people under 18, and more than a third of the states have higher minimum ages. Store owners are required to verify a customer’s age when they enter a store.

James Jarvis began seeing sales at his five Vapor Station stores in Central Ohio slow in early August and the drop accelerated into September.

“All you were hearing were headlines saying it was making people sick and killing them. It doesn’t do much for consumer confidence,” he says.

While the industry might not elicit much sympathy because of criticism that it sells nicotine products to minors, industry groups warn of the potential consequences of any ban for the many smokers who used vaping products to quit cigarettes.

Indeed, some owners are hearing from some former customers that they’ve gone back to cigarettes. Owners fear they’ve lost that business forever, but they also worry about the health of people who they’ve gotten to know well.

“They’re just gone. We lost about half our customers,” says Todd Donk, who has one Zook’s Vapor store in Bartlett, Tennessee. He averaged about $30,000 in sales each month before customers fled.

“One guy told me yesterday, ‘my family told me to go back to smoking. They’d rather see me smoke than vape,”’ Donk says.

That is frustrating and disheartening for vaping store owners; many started their businesses after successfully using the products to wean themselves off cigarettes, says Dimitris Agrafiotis, executive director of the Tennessee Smoke Free Association, which represents more than 100 small businesses in the vaping industry.

“They opened up these businesses to help people stop smoking,” he says. Many owners do more than just sell products; they help customers find the right vaporizers and liquids to fit their needs.

Missy Pilkington Currie smoked two packs of cigarettes a day before trying vaping products and then starting her business in 2014. Now, “98% of my customers are people trying to stop smoking,” she says.

Currie counted under 600 customer visits to her Vape Scape store in Hobbs, New Mexico, in September, down from nearly 1,700 in September 2018. Her sales are down nearly 60% from last year.

As they fight to survive, owners of vaping stores are relying on loyalty and the hope that people will come to realize that the products they sell are safe.

Nair says customers who have been vaping safely for years are still coming in.

“Some have been with us for 10 years,” Nair says. “They’re still confident in the product and are still shopping with us.”

Owners are hoping that as more people hear the CDC’s determination that the majority of illnesses weren’t caused by products sold in vaping shops customers will return. In the meantime, owners will use websites and word of mouth to tell the public their products are safe, says Jarvis, who is head of the Ohio Vapor Trade Association.

Most owners, whose stores sell only vaping goods, aren’t going to try to sell other products or turn themselves into convenience store operators, Jarvis says.

“We don’t want to muddy the waters. We want to be dedicated specialists for people who want to get off smoking,” he says.


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3 reasons to attend Path to Purchase Expo 2019

Industry conference in Chicago offers networking opportunities and insights for retailers and brands

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 3.28.19 PMWith more lightning-fast changes in the industry, we all need a way to level the playing field and execute strategies for growth.

Look no further than the 2019 Path to Purchase Expo (P2PX). The Path to Purchase Institute’s largest annual event will be held Nov. 13 and 14 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Here are three reasons why P2PX brings together the sharpest consumer goods and retail talent:

1) Education That Empowers – Our vetted, master-class content offers you inspiring new ideas and models for action.

2) Community That Matters – P2PX connects you directly to the most knowledgeable, passionate decision-makers in the industry.

3) Solutions That Transform – Our carefully selected exhibitors match your unique business needs to innovative, ROI-driven solutions.

Who Attends Path to Purchase Expo?
  • Brands
  • Agencies
  • Retailers
  • Solution providers

Join us Nov. 13 and 14 in Chicago for the defining retail event of the year and turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s stories of success.

Visit Path2PurchaseExpo.com for more information and to:

View the full agenda

Register

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Meet incoming NACS chair Julie Jackowski

Julie Jackowski NACSNewly named NACS Chair Julie Jackowski never intended to end up in the convenience store industry. Yet the path she took to get there taught her some important lessons, she recalled during the closing general session of the 2019 NACS Show.

“I didn’t grow up in the industry,” Jackowski told the audience on the final day of this year’s event, held Oct. 1-4 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. “I didn’t seek out the industry, and somehow it found me.”

Jackowski became a lawyer and focused on employment law to fulfill her desire to help people. When a partner at her law firm alerted her to a job opportunity at convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores Inc., her first concern was that they might be trying to get rid of her but, after looking into the position, she found that the in-house legal role was a great fit for her due its focus on employment law and people.

During her final interview with former Casey’s CEO, the late Ronald Lamb, he told her something that significantly affected her view of the company and sealed her decision to take the job: “‘Julie, you need to understand, if you come to work for Casey’s, an attorney is no better than our part-time doughnut makers,'” she recounted.

His point was that every single person at Casey’s, regardless of education or job title, is critical to the success of the operation.

“The goal always, always has to be to lift each other up to better serve our guests and our communities,” she said.

That holds true for the convenience store industry as a whole, and the NACS Show as an event, according to Jackowski, who today serves as senior vice president, corporate general counsel and secretary of Casey’s General Stores. By coming together to share ideas, c-store leaders can improve the industry for everyone.

“That’s what makes it really fun,” she said.

Looking to the future, Jackowski advised NACS showgoers to remember that regardless of market size, every retailer is competing against the internet and consumer expectations of unlimited inventory and fast delivery.

Taking part in the NACS InStore program, which brings c-store retailers and the nation’s legislators together, is another way NACS members can advocate for the industry.

Jackowski closed her presentation by talking about Casey’s just-launched brand campaign, “Here For Good.” The tagline relates to the company’s quality food, but it also relates to the guest experience and how Casey’s serves its communities.

It tells the story of the c-store industry and of NACS, too, Jackowski believes.

“We all learn from each other. We make each other better. And we are there for each other every single day,” she concluded.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.


Four out of five small businesses broadcast music illegally: survey

You enter a small store with a cozy atmosphere and are drawn in by the music playing in the background, bringing back memories of days long past.

The only problem is, in four out of five cases – according to a recent survey – the music is being broadcast illegally, depriving composers, producers, editors and musicians of the royalties they’re entitled to earn.

The Leger poll found that while 77% of small businesses with 10 employees or less played background music, only 11% paid the fees to broadcast publicly. When only those who play music are counted, 12% pay the fee while 81% don’t, which is in violation of Canadian law.

“Canadian law states that if you use music in a business and if the public, your customers, hear that music, you must obtain authorization, a licence from the rights holders,” said Eric Baptiste, the CEO of Canadian rights management organization SOCAN, which represents songwriters, composers and publishers.

SOCAN and RE:SOUND, which works with singers, musicians and producers, together are responsible for managing rights and collecting and distributing royalties across Canada.

The Leger poll found that non-compliance with the law was overwhelmingly due to ignorance: 82% of the businesses surveyed said they had no idea they had to pay rights for public broadcast.

“We have to educate people who visit businesses, who find themselves in veterinarian and dentists’ offices, and educate entrepreneurs and business owners that there are rights to pay,” said Mathieu Peloquin of Stingray, which sells music rights and commissioned the survey.

While he didn’t go so far as to question the poll, Baptiste said he was surprised by the level of non-compliance found in the survey.

“Our own numbers, our own research found that the proportion of (those who pay) is higher than that because, for example, SOCAN has 100,000 licensed institutions that pay rights directly to songwriters.”

But Peloquin said the Leger survey showed higher levels of non-compliance precisely because it targeted small stores, such as doctors’ or vets’ offices, small restaurants and bars, and independent businesses.

“Of course, the big players make sure to pay the performance fees for the background music they play, but when you look at businesses with between one and 10 employees, that’s where the problem is found,” he said.

Examples of illegal broadcasting include playing the radio in one’s store or even making a playlist of music from the owner’s personal collection of tunes downloaded via iTunes or another platform.

Almost two-thirds of the businesses included in Leger’s survey said they played the radio in their public spaces, perhaps believing the station would have paid whatever’s needed to obtain the broadcast rights.

But in fact, the store owner must also pay the rights. Similarly, even music that has been legally purchased, or streamed on a service such as Spotify, cannot be broadcast without paying an additional fee.

Only one in 10 of the businesses surveyed by Leger said they used a distributor such as SiriusXM or Stingray, which can be legally played because the broadcaster covers the rights.

Ask a person if they’d be willing to pay for something already available for free online or over the air, and most will respond with a no.

Business owners are no exception, according to the survey, which found that 80% of small business owners would not pay for background music, and of the 18% that said they would, the majority (13%) specified that they’d only pay “a small amount.”

“Many say music is important for their activities, for their business prosperity, but they have a certain reluctance to accept the price,” Baptiste said.

That price, Peloquin points out, isn’t very expensive. Prices are set according to a commerce’s square footage and number of clients, meaning that many small businesses would pay $100 or less per year.

The Leger survey was conducted between Jan. 4 and 19, 2019, and questioned 510 small businesses with 10 employees or less across Canada through phone interviews with owners and managers of small stores, restaurants, service or entertainment-based businesses, and veterinary clinics.

The margin of error is about 4.3%, with an accuracy of 95%.


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U.S. consumer watchdog agency probes 6 more vaping firms

Federal consumer watchdogs have ordered Juul and five other vaping companies to hand over information about how they market e-cigarettes, the government’s latest move targeting the industry.

The announcement Thursday from the Federal Trade Commission comes amid a nationwide crackdown on e-cigarettes as politicians and health authorities try to reverse an explosion of underage vaping by U.S. teenagers.

The FTC said in a statement it wants to “better understand” vaping sales and promotional practices, including e-cigarette give-aways, online influencer programs and marketing on college campuses. Those techniques are also at the centre of several state and federal investigations into whether Juul’s early viral marketing efforts helped spark the surge in teen vaping.

Last week San Francisco-based Juul announced it would cease all advertising of its small, discrete vaping devices. A company spokesman said Thursday in a statement: “We will fully co-operate and are focused on earning the trust of regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders.”

Federal law prohibits traditional tobacco companies from numerous sales tactics, including giving away cigarettes, sponsoring sports events and advertising on television, radio, public transportation and billboards. But those laws don’t apply to e-cigarettes, which first launched in the U.S. in 2007.

More than one in four high school students report vaping in the past month, according to the latest government survey data. Top health officials have called the trend an epidemic that risks addicting a generation of young people to nicotine.

Besides Juul, the government is also seeking information from R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, Fontem US, Logic Technology Development, Nu Mark and NJOY. Regulators want to review company materials beginning in 2015.

Besieged by criticism, Juul announced a series of surprise concessions last week: halting all advertising, pledging not to lobby against a planned federal ban on vaping flavours and replacing its CEO. Juul already faces multiple investigations from Congress, the Food and Drug Administration and several states attorneys general.

The privately-held company controls nearly 70 per cent of the U.S. retail market for e-cigarettes and became a cultural phenomenon on the success of its high-nicotine, flavoured pods.

Most experts agree that e-cigarette vapour is less harmful than cigarette smoke because it doesn’t contain most of the cancer-causing chemicals in burning tobacco.

The recent outbreak of lung illnesses mostly involves people who say they vaped THC, the high-inducing chemical found in marijuana. Still, health inspectors have not ruled out any products and are encouraging Americans to avoid vaping until they determine the cause of the illnesses.