The Compassion Club: A new proposal for transformation of tobacco retail

Nicotine Tob Res. 2023 Jan 2;ntac295. doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntac295. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: One major assumption in the current tobacco industry is the distribution of tobacco products through a system of commercial for-profit retail. However, other models of distribution that do not rely on this mechanism exist.

Methods: In this review, we examine the potential of a non-profit Compassion Club model and discuss how the current existence of independent vape stores might provide the infrastructure to allow the transformation of the tobacco distribution.

Results: Compassion Clubs exist internationally with different levels of regulation and legality and have generally been focused on the distribution of illegal drugs or hard to access pharmaceuticals. They provide access to drugs for existing users, limit access by novices, limit negative impacts from illicit markets and provide social support focused on reducing harms associated with drug use.

Conclusions: With decreasing prevalence of tobacco use in many countries and growing interest in a tobacco endgame, a Compassion Club model of distribution could help transition tobacco away from the model of commercial widely available distribution. More work is needed to develop the regulations and policies that might guide a compassion club model.

Implications: Compassion clubs are a model for the distribution of psychoactive substances that are focused on harm reduction and social support rather than profit. There has been little discussion about the possibility that this promising model could be applied to help transform the tobacco industry. Many independent vape stores already demonstrate aspects of the compassion club model that could be used to support a transition.