British American Tobacco Buys Leading South African Vape Company

Twisp has been selling vaping products to South Africans since 2008

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Cigarette companies have been buying into the vaping industry at a rapid pace lately, and the trend continues with this week’s purchase of South Africa’s largest vaping company by British American Tobacco (BAT).

South African vape pioneer Twisp brings a variety of products to the corporate marriage with BAT, although most of Twisp’s devices appear to be rebranded Chinese pens and mods. The company — which has been selling vape products in South Africa since 2008 — also has several lines of e-liquid, and according to Business Day owns 66 stores.

The stores may be the real target of the acquisition, since tobacco companies like BAT are looking for outlets to sell their “next generation products,” which include not just vapes but also heat-not-burn (HNB) products like BAT’s Glo. Smokers switching to Glo or its better-known competitor IQOS (sold by Philip Morris International) may need some instruction to make the fiddly fake smokes work properly.

That may also explain American tobacco seller Altria’s investment in Avail Vapor, a vape shop chain with more than 100 locations. Altria will sell PMI’s IQOS in the U.S., if the FDA approves one of the HNB product’s two marketing applications. Earlier this year, Altria also announced its purchase of pod vape Cync.

BAT has a large portfolio of vaping businesses and products. The best-known vaping brand BAT sells is its Vype series, including the well-regarded pod vape called the Vype Pebble, and other mods that are rebadged Innokin products.

Since it began dipping toes into the vaping market, BAT has bought the CHIC Group, which controls as much as 70 percent of Polish vaping business, and U.K. manufacturer Ten Motives in 2016.

Earlier this year, BAT acquired Reynolds American International (RAI), which includes RJ Reynolds, maker of Camel and Newport cigarettes, and also Vuse cigalikes, which are among the market leaders in the convenience store and gas station sales channel.

Jim McDonald
Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy