Farewell to 2012

Looking back on highlights from the past year and what 2013 may have in store

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

NEW YORK -- It's difficult to believe the last issue of Tobacco E-News for 2012 is upon us--but with Christmas one week away and New Year's Day the following week, this will indeed be our final newsletter of the year.

As you probably know, 2012 has been a volatile year, both for the tobacco category and for this humble editor who was approached last February about joining the CSP team to cover the tobacco beat.

To celebrate the end of one year and promise of a new one, here are some of the highlights from the last 12 months and predictions for the future.

The Innovation Game: For some reason, the tobacco industry is not known for its innovative efforts; this is a shame, because over the past year, I've seen players big and small embrace a bevy of exciting new products. There's the obvious enthusiasm over electronic cigarettes, a relatively small segment that saw both Lorillard and Reynolds get in the game in 2012. The past year also saw Altria launch Verve, a tobacco-free nicotine disc, and Niconovum, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., begin offering Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) gum under the Zonnic brand name. If the name of the game is innovation, the tobacco industry is certainly ready to play.

The Good Fight Continues: The legislative issues surrounding tobacco can be overwhelming to even the most seasoned retailer (or reporter). 2012 was no exception: display bans, advertising bans, drastic tax increases and graphic health warnings were just a couple threats facing tobacco retailers; however, between NATO, NACS and any number of local organizations standing up for retailers' rights, there are some very seasoned soldiers fighting these battles. Thanks in part to their efforts, the majority of tobacco tax increases (including Prop 29 in California and Prop B in Missouri) were defeated, and measures that would have required retailers to hide tobacco or display graphic health warnings were overturned. There will undoubtedly be future battles, but rest assured that tobacco retailers have some powerful allies on their side.

2013: The Year of the FDA?: It seems that throughout 2012, those in the industry have waited for FDA guidelines on a number of issues: menthols, cigars, OTP, electronic cigarettes, modified risk, good manufacturing practices. So far, the FDA has been silent on all fronts. While the organization is not known for its speed, many believe the FDA was waiting on the results of the 2012 presidential election--meaning 2013 could be quite an eventful year. Which direction the FDA will go on these issues is still unknown--but after such a long wait, any answer is a good answer, as it allows retailers to properly prepare for the future.

Cigars Will Be Enjoyed: Cigars have always had a special place in my heart: growing up, Christmas Eve culminated with my father and grandfather making a careful selection from the humidor for an after-dinner smoke. I can still remember the first time I got to join in on this tradition with a slender Romeo Y Julieta. From NATO to NACS to CSP's many events, I've been fortunate enough to share the gift of cigars and conversation with the many retailers and suppliers who make up the Tobacco E-News family--and I look forward to sharing a cigar with you in 2013!