Snus: Marketing to Youth

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Norway: Increase in Young People Using Snus

A 2015 Euromonitor briefing[1] reported that Norway had seen a sharp increase in snus use amongst young people, which has been attributed by the Norwegian government to the marketing of the tobacco industry:

“According to the Minister [of Health and Care Services], the growth in snus usage among young people began after the snus industry began developing snus boxes with new designs, new colours and flavourings such as vanilla, menthol and liquorice which ‘appeal to young people’.”

Norway is currently considering introducing plain packaging for all tobacco products, including snus.[1]

Image 1. Print advertisement for Parliament snus screengrab from http://www.webcitation.org/68l7MRfq3 (archived webpage)

Russia: Snus Targeted at the Young and Wealthy[2]

In September 2012, the academic journal Tobacco Control published a news story which provided details of a proposed marketing strategy of Parliament snus in Russia.

In December 2011 SMPM International, the joint venture between Philip Morris International (PMI) and Swedish Match, commenced a trial market of Swedish snus in Russia, following earlier test markets in Taiwan in 2009 and Canada in 2010. Three snus varieties were introduced under PMI’s premium cigarette brand Parliament, which has a strong presence in Russia. A few months earlier, Swedish Match’s CEO Lars Dahlgren had informed investors the launch would be supported by a number of marketing activities, including brand building and sampling, considering that “marketing restrictions [in Russia] are not as strict as they have been for us in the Taiwanese market and the Canadian market”.[3]

In June 2012, a marketing campaign for PMI’s Parliament brand snus by advertising firm Proximity Russia, was cited on Behance.net, an online network that showcases professional creative work.[4] Proximity Russia’s brief was “to launch in the Russian market a new category of tobacco product targeted at wealthy audience, operating in the context of dark market”. With the brief in mind, Proximity developed print advertisements depicting well-dressed young adult males (Image 1), stylish product display units (Image 2), and a product website (www.snus.ru) which is currently open to registered users only. Furthermore, the proposed marketing strategy included “youth engagement materials” and the use of attractive and successful looking young adults, referred to as the “snus envoy”, recruited to promote Parliament snus (Image 3).

Image 2. Parliament snus display from http://www.webcitation.org/68l7MRfq3 (archived webpage)


Similar techniques were used in the mid-1980s by United States Tobacco Company (UST) when it attempted to introduce smokeless tobacco product Skoal Bandits in Europe by paying college students to promote Skoal Bandits amongst peers.[5][6]


Taken together, this indicates that, contrary to the industry argument that snus should be legalised in the EU to offer smokers a less harmful tobacco alternative to cigarettes,[7][8] snus may well be promoted in new markets to young adults and non-tobacco users. This is in line with some evidence from the United States, which has an established smokeless tobacco market, and where tobacco industry marketing messages have been used to promote dual use of smokeless tobacco and cigarettes and encourage smokeless tobacco uptake by young non-tobacco users.[9][10][11][12]

Looking at the marketing materials and accompanying brief for the Parliament campaign, there is no suggestion that current smokers were the target audience for Parliament snus in Russia.


Image 3: Parliament snus targeting young people through use of brand ‘ambassadors’ from http://www.webcitation.org/68l7MRfq3 (archived webpage)

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 D. Hedley, What’s Happening in Tobacco- February 2015. Opinion 4 March 2015
  2. S. Peeters, K.Evans, Russia: snus targeted at young & wealthy, Tobacco Control, 2012; 21:456-459, accessed September 2012
  3. Thomson Reuters, Q3 2011 Swedish Match AB Earnings Conference Call Transcript. 2011
  4. Philip Morris Russia/ Snus by Parliament Launch Campaign, accessed June 2012
  5. BATCo Press Cutting Index, 1985, accessed June 2012
  6. United States Tobacco International Incorporated and Another v British Broadcasting Corporation – Judgment, 1988, accessed June 2012
  7. PMI, Philip Morris Limited's Response to the Department of Health's Consultation on the Future of Tobacco Control. 2008
  8. J. Williamson, C. Proctor, Should the Health Community Promote Smokeless Tobacco (Snus): Comments from British American Tobacco. PLoS Medicine, 2007;4(10)
  9. G.N. Connolly, The marketing of nicotine addiction by one oral snuff manufacturer. Tobacco Control, 1995; 4:73-79
  10. C.M. Carpenter, G. N. Connolly, O. A. Ayo-Yusuf, G. F. Wayne, Developing smokeless tobacco products for smokers: an examination of tobacco industry documents. Tobacco Control, 2009;18(1):54-59
  11. H.R. Alpert, H. Koh, and G.N. Connolly, Free nicotine content and strategic marketing of moist snuff tobacco products in the United States: 2000-2006. Tobacco Control, 2008;17(5):332-338
  12. A. B. Meija, P.M. Ling, Tobacco Industry Consumer Research on Smokeless Tobacco Users and Product Development. American Journal of Public Health, 2010;100(1):78-87