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Alternative smoking
Which vaping products you need to stock and why

Let’s clear the air over alternative smoking and determine which products will perform best in your store.

Alternative Smoking accounted for less than 0.5% of total store spend until last summer when sales increased dramatically. It now features in the Top 10 categories with Year On Year growth of 375%.


The margin on these products has changed over time and we are seeing an improvement currently. In terms of each product type, disposable bars have a margin of 42% and Pods/Capsules are around 30%. E-liquids vary – Logic are 30% but the biggest seller, Edge has a margin of 62%.

Alternatve Smoking: Average Sales Per Store

The alternative smoking category is made up of 3 key areas – Vaping, Heated Tobacco Sticks and Nicotine Pouches.

Disposable vaping devices overtook the popularity of Open and Closed System Devices during summer 2021 following the launch of several new brands. Disposable vaping devices now account for over 80% of vaping spend, compared to 0.5% in February 2021.

The share of total store spend was 0.3% in early 2020 but has risen to 2.4% in February 2022 – average sales for February 2022 are up 375% compared to February 2021.

Share of Alternative Smoking Spend
Share of Total Vaping Spend
Open System

Until summer 2021, this was the dominant product type with 70-75% of total Vaping spend. Users are able to refill the tank with the e-liquid of their choice. The most popular flavours are Menthol, Blackcurrant and Blueberry and the biggest selling brand in our stores is Edge.

Closed System

This system uses refilled cartridges or pods to replace the liquid. These systems made up around a third of total vape spend until summer 2021. The most popular flavours for the closed system are Menthol, Crisp Mint and Tobacco, and the biggest brands are Logic and Vuse.


Disposable products are popular for beginners as they are pre-charged and pre-filled to be disposed of when empty. Older devices were shaped like a cigarette, but the strong growth has come from modern multicoloured formats shaped like pens or bars. During June to October 2021, over 900 new barcodes were seen in our stores and the only new Alternative Smoking barcodes seen so far this year are for disposables. This market is concentrated with around millennials, but 2021 saw a large increase in Gen Z vapers (born 1997-2012) looking for simple, easily accessible devices.

Disposable products are popular with consumers because there is no need to carry chargers and refills, no commitment to one brand of device. They’re also easy for beginners to use because they can be used directly from the box and no prior knowledge of the system is required. Due to the popularity of disposable vape bars, there has also been a rise in the number of fakes which may contain banned e-liquids which , are dangerous to health.

Disposable: Monthly Sales v New Barcodes
Heated Tobacco Sales
Nicotine Pouches Sales
Vaping Sales
Heated Tobacco Sticks

Heated tobacco sticks closely resemble cigarettes, but are heated rather than burned to reduce the production of harmful chemicals. They started to increase in popularity through 2020-21 but average monthly stores sales have been declining recently.

Nicotine Pouches

Nicotine pouches are placed under the top or bottom lip and nicotine is absorbed through the gums. A number of new brands came onto the market in 2021 which improved sales but by the end of 2021 monthly sales were declining.

Vaping Sales

Since lockdown, shoppers have continued to use c-stores for purchasing vape products as they can make more of a single trip and buy other things in one store. An analysis of baskets revealed that 28% of alternative smoking baskets also contain soft drinks, 15% contain confectionery, and 10% contain alcohol. However, 34% of transactions are single item transactions so it is clear that shoppers are still choosing c-stores specifically for vape products.

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