The greatest threat to the tobacco category, per respondents, is once again the Food and Drug Administration’s initiative to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars—but it’s up to 44% from 25% last year, when it was tied with consumers smoking less.

Taylor of Last Minit Mart said menthol cigarettes are about 25% of his sales—“It would be a big hit if we lost that business.”

Meanwhile, Taylor thinks it’s good that tobacco companies are looking to move beyond combustible cigarettes. “They need to look at alternatives,” he said. “We know tobacco smoking is bad for your health, and we’ve got to look at healthier alternatives. But I still believe it should be one’s self-determination to whether or not they participate.”

Anderson of Midwest Petroleum has a similar viewpoint. “I always get nervous when morality or health is regulated. You can’t legislate people to do something because you think it’s in their best interest. People in America want choice, and once you begin eliminating choice, they will figure out a way around it,” she said.

Federal regulation is a headwind for Midwest Petroleum, Anderson said. “We need to keep an eye on ourselves and on our product mix and adjust as the consumer preferences are adjusting. Continued price hikes are difficult for our particular customers.”

Horizon Resources gets new products from vendors constantly, with promises such as, “This one has 5,000 puffs, and this one has 8,000,” Ellis said.

“The vapes just seem to be taking off, including the nicotine-free vapes,” Ellis said. “The prices have increased, but the demand is still there.”