5 Out-There Predictions for Tobacco

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

outer space future

CHICAGO -- Three-dimensional printers, connected devices and gene editing. Fast-emerging technologies such as these could have a profound, almost mind-blowing effect on the tobacco category, influencing everything from how people use the product to its prolonged health effects, according to an industry analyst.

Speaking to about 60 attendees at CSP’s recent Behind the Counter Forum on tobacco, Nik Modi, managing director of RBC Capital Markets, New York, shared insights on its new RBC Image 2025 study and how environmental, social, political and technological trends could affect the manufacture and sale of tobacco and nicotine-delivery products.

He emphasized the importance of agility moving forward. “The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has gone from 61 years to 17,” Modi said. “To adapt, you have to make tough choices.”

Here are some ideas Modi presented …

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Do it yourself

3d printer

With 3D printers, people could make their own products, giving consumers the ability to “hyperpersonalize” items and at the same time, eliminate the need to visit a store. “3D printing is changing the game when you can make what you want at home,” Modi said.

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backyard garden

Added to the idea self-manufacturing is the promise of a greater number of interconnected devices. “Soon there will be more sensors than human beings,” Modi said. A more connected world could cut costs of food production by making better use of land, equipment and resources—even to the point where people started to grow more crops on personal property. That revolution could put more money into consumers’ pockets and at the same time, make people more self-sufficient. This “homegrown” trend has implications in how tobacco is produced, purchased and consumed.

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Sourcing transparency

woman reading label in grocery

A more connected world may also increase the demand for transparency in sourcing. Consumers may want to know where and how their tobacco products are made and under what circumstances, something that could raise retail prices depending on issues like sustainability or a particular social cause.

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Device utility

vaping devices

Like any piece of hardware, e-cigarettes and other nicotine-delivery devices could become ways people can consume caffeine, vitamins, medicine or cannabinoids, Modi says.

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Health aspects

doctor and patient

Advances in modern healthcare could eventually eliminate all the negative attributes of smoking. Modi said that a technology such as gene editing could make nicotine nonaddictive, while other technologies such as cloning or mechanical implants could replace damaged hearts or lungs. Still other devices, or even pills, can monitor what people consume and text an estimate of current life expectancy after smoking that cigarette or having that last can of beer.

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