Welcome again to our new column, I hoped you all liked the first one and are prepared to give the second one a go, so we will start with, MENTHOL MADNESS. Let’s get this out of the way and begin with the MENTHOL BAN, (I can see some of you now pulling a face) it has driven us all mad. The first two weeks of January were the worst once it was first put out in the media, (it was mass panic) not because of the ban of menthol cigarettes as such but because hand rolling tobacco was mentioned. Now this I was confused by so I thought it was best to look at what the customers were reading, the lovely media who we always believe what we read (of course) had worded it very wrongly, what they were actually referring to was flavoured hand rolling which was banned as we all know a few years ago, and the Menthol hand rolling this coming May, to be fair the whole report was confusing but now at least I knew what I was dealing with. I also had some customers wanting to buy up all our Menthol tips, yes, a nice amount of money going into the till but there was no need and we would have been left with no stock for everybody else. I did consider printing a poster saying “Don’t panic it’s only Menthol cigarettes” but for now it has calmed down a bit. SOON TO BE FORGOTTEN FRIENDS. BEFORE THE EU. Now let’s go back in time to before 1973 (the year we joined the EU), in those days there was no definition between pipe and hand rolling tobacco it was just called tobacco, and back then in this country we were only allowed to add water to our tobacco and nothing else, but all across Europe they were allowed to add flavouring and that only changed for us after 1973 (I do hope in the future the government does not remember any of this) . Back in the early 60’s the first menthol cigarette was produced in this country called Consulate, and the way they got round not being able to flavour the tobacco was by putting the menthol into the tip, (it feels that we have gone full circle) as that is now the only way we will enjoy a Menthol smoke. WHAT'S IN A CIGARETTE? All this talk of adding flavours to tobacco got me wondering when were additives first added to cigarettes, well it appears to be after the 1950’s, although composed mainly of shredded tobacco leaf, they began to have a significant quantity of tobacco processing byproducts in the blend. The most popular byproducts include: BLENDED LEAF: A paste made with tobacco dust collected from tobacco steaming, finely milled burleyleaf stem and pectin. RECONSTITUTED LEAF: A paper-like material made from recycled tobacco, tobacco stems and “class tobacco”, at a later stage of processing ammonium additives are applied to make reconstituted tobacco an effective nicotine delivery system. EXPANDED: Where shredded leaf stems are expanded then dried. Additives are then added to the shredded tobacco including flavouring and enhancers, to improve the flavour, consistency, and addictiveness. Last interesting fact, tobacco per 1000 cigarettes fell from 2.28pounds in 1960 to 0.91 pounds in 1999 largely due as a result of reconstituting tobacco, fluffing and additives. I wonder if there is any tobacco left in a cigarette nowadays. COFFEE IS NOT A FRUIT FLAVOUR. While still slightly on the subject of flavoured tobacco we had a customer come in asking what flavoured shag we have, so I answered “Vanilla, Peach, Blackcherry, Blueberry, ect ect, so he replies “do you have any fruit flavoured ones?” I replyed “I just told you Vanilla, Peach, Blackcherry, Blueberry ect ect”. His response was , “Oh yes silly me I think I will take the Coffee” Your guess is as good as mine. TO STOCK OR NOT TO STOCK? Right that’s enough about cigarettes lets talk about stock control, no matter what we do we can’t get it right , the amount of times you have a regular on a certain product and you break your back trying to make sure you don’t run out for them, then they stop coming in and you are left with a fair amount of stock that nobody else wants is fustrating to say the least . You finally manage to sell it off then months later that original customer returns and gets annoyed that you don’t have his brand anymore, I always respond with “Well I was only getting it in for you” (that usually shuts them up). There are two brothers that have been coming in for years buying a certain brand of cigar (we have it in two sizes and they always buy the larger one). Now they buy on average 40 cigars per week, and as we were a just a few weeks before Christmas I asked them “will you still be wanting the same amount each week ?” “yes” they replyed “and some extra just before Christmas” so we worked out how many cigars that would be and I went ahead and placed the order. The following week they came in and asked to buy the smaller cigar (WHAT!! I was screaming in my head), ok fine I can deal with this, except the next week the same thing happened again, so I said to them “don’t forget I’ve ordered the larger ones in for you “, “oh yes that’s great we shall have them next week” phew! Next week comes and they say to me “we have decided to give cigars a break for a while, but we will have a few for Christmas”, oh yeh they did and bought one box of 20, and I’ve not seen them since. The moral of the story is never trust your customers, and if they do want something a legal binding contract signed in blood is about the only way you will ever get stock control right no matter how hard you try. Yet again if you have any stories you would like to share even about the current situation (I know it is affecting us all in different ways, and we are all doing our best to soldier on) please email me at shelley.cox.@aits.co.uk.