The current public-health controversy about electronic cigarettes is having a growing impact on sales, according to the Nielsen report for the four-week period ending Sept. 21.

Sales volumes of the mainstream e-cigarette products, led by Juul, were up 38.1% year over year for the period, compared with a 48.1% increase over the previous 12-week period. Nielsen primarily measures convenience-store data.

Juul’s volume fell from a 56.1% increase a year ago to 31.2% during the four-week period.

Meanwhile, the slight decline in traditional cigarette industry sales continued during the four-week period. The decline was 6.7% compared with a 7% decline for the previous 12-week period.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week its investigation into an outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses is focused primarily on open-pod e-cigarettes in which liquids containing the marijuana compound THC are being vaped.

There have been at least 805 individuals who have gotten sick nationwide from vaping the THC liquids, as well as at least 13 deaths. The CDC has not confirmed whether the problem stems from THC or from thickeners added to the vaping liquid.

CDC officials say patients have mentioned the name Dank Vapes prefilled THC cartridges most frequently, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, there have been few incidents reported involving the closed-pod e-cigarettes sold by Juul, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s Vuse, Fontem Ventures’ blu eCigs and NJoy.

However, the CDC advises Americans to consider avoiding all vaping products, though the agency added Friday the phrase “particularly those containing THC.”

“Recent negative Food and Drug Administration/public health headlines have increased consumers’ negative perception of e-cigarettes and Juul and adversely impacted volumes as a result,” Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog said.

“While still too early to call, we believe further negative news and an FDA-mandated removal of non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors from the market could result in improved combustible cigarette volumes as vapers potentially return to the cigarette category.”

That result, according to anti-smoking advocates, is the opposite of what the FDA and public-health officials should want considering combustible cigarettes are considered as much more hazardous to consume than e-cigarettes.

Anti-tobacco advocates, however are hoping the potential ending of flavored e-cigarettes will lead more smokers to try traditional nicotine replacement therapy products rather than resume smoking traditional cigarettes.

Herzog has said cigarette volumes could be down as much as 6% this year.

British American Tobacco Plc, parent company of Reynolds American Inc., and Altria Group Inc., parent company of Philip Morris USA, has said the decline could be between 4% and 5%, while Imperial Brands Plc has said it could be between 4.5% and 5%.

Nielsen reported Marlboro volume was down 6.7% for the four-week period, while Newport was down 1%, Camel down 6.7%, Natural American Spirit down 2.6% and Pall Mall down 10.8%.

The volume decline is partially caused by a recent 11-cent per pack price increase and by e-cigarettes having been adopted as a viable nicotine alternative.

Part of the decline also can be attributed to wholesalers and retailers stocking up on inventory ahead of the price increase in February. Those groups typically pass along list-price increases to consumers.

Philip Morris held steady in first place at 53.9% market share, of which 47.4% is the top-selling Marlboro.

Reynolds was at 33.9%, led by 13.2% from Newport, 8.8% Camel, 6.4% Pall Mall and 3.5% Natural American Spirit.

ITG was at 6.9%, including 2% from Winston and 1.5% each from Kool and Maverick. ITG has said its market share is closer to 10%.

With electronic cigarettes, Juul holds a 72.3% market share, down from 73.4% from the previous survey, as it was affected by eliminating some flavorings earlier this year.

By comparison, the market share is 11.7% for No. 2 Vuse of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., up from 11.6% in the previous survey. Similar flavored e-cigs have not been pulled from retail by Reynolds Vapor.

Herzog has projected $9 billion in e-cigarette sales this year, up from $7 billion in 2018.

Year over year, Imperial Brands Plc’s Blu e-cig was third at 5.1%, followed by NJoy at 5%. Japan Tobacco’s Logic was unchanged at 2.4%.

However, NJoy’s market share jumped to 14.2% for the most recent four-week period, while Juul was at 66.7% and Vuse at 11.6%.

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