A Different Camel Is Back in the Glossies


THE two largest tobacco companies in the United States voluntarily stopped advertising cigarettes in magazines, with Philip Morris, whose brands include Marlboro cigarettes, ceasing in 2005 and R. J. Reynolds, whose brands include Camel, at the beginning of 2008.

Now the Camel logo is back prominently in major glossies, including Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and Maxim — but not to advertise cigarettes. R. J. Reynolds is advertising Camel Snus, a tobacco packet that wedges in the upper lip and, unlike chewing tobacco, is promoted as “spitless” because low salt content spares users the unpleasantness of public expectoration. Although snus is popular in Sweden, this is the first time it has been marketed in the United States by a major American tobacco company.

The campaign, by Quaker City Mercantile in Philadelphia, pitches Camel Snus (pronounced snoose) as a way around smoking bans. The ads cater to specific magazine audiences, with a recent issue of Rolling Stone promoting snus as “sweaty outdoor festival friendly” and one in Sports Illustrated declaring it “extra inning friendly.” Others call snus “your flight just got canceled friendly,” “ridiculously long conference call friendly” and “fancy hotel friendly.”

David Howard, an R. J. Reynolds spokesman, said that the company had not reversed its magazine policy, but that this was a Camel of another color.

“We do not advertise cigarettes in print right now and have not done that for a couple years, but Camel Snus is not a cigarette,” Mr. Howard said. “This is a different product, and if ultimately you want your adult tobacco consumers to be aware of the product and its attributes, clearly you have to advertise.”

Tobacco companies are fighting to be able to retain the use of their logos. In August, companies including R. J. Reynolds filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse provisions in a recently passed federal tobacco law that will prevent tobacco advertisements from using logos or color in publications that have either more than 15 percent readership, or two million readers, under 18. (Congress banned advertising cigarettes on television in the 1970s.)

With smoking declining — the Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans smoked 371 billion cigarettes in 2006, down from a high of 640 billion in 1981 — tobacco companies are developing smoke-free products. Marlboro has its own version of snus in test markets including Indianapolis and Dallas-Fort Worth.

David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria, the largest United States cigarette maker and parent of Philip Morris, said that “we’ve had very good consumer response” in test markets but he declined to reveal whether the company would introduce Marlboro Snus nationally.

As cigarette revenue has dropped steadily, sales of smokeless tobacco — a catchall that includes snuff, plug and chewing tobacco — have grown. Revenue for the products more than doubled from 1986 to 2006, growing from $798 million to $2.6 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Over the same two decades, tobacco companies more than quadrupled advertising and promotional spending for smokeless products, to $354 million, from $77 million.

Public health advocates agree that snus is less carcinogenic than cigarettes, but is still problematic.

“None of us would say the risk of snus products is the same as smoked products, because it’s not,” said Dr. Jack Henningfield, former chief of pharmacology research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “If they switched 100 percent from cigarettes, there is likely a harm reduction.”

But the way Camel Snus is marketed might be “harm increasing if people delay quitting because of them,” Dr. Henningfield said.

Smoking prohibitions prompt more smokers to quit, so industry watchdogs are leery of a campaign that flaunts circumventing bans.

“Camel clearly is not marketing snus as a replacement product — it’s a complementary product,” said Gregory N. Connolly, a professor and tobacco researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. Mr. Connolly said the fact that R. J. Reynolds was marketing snus under the Camel brand rather than one of its smokeless brands like Grizzly or Kodiak suggested it was trying to make Camel cigarette loyalists “dual users.”

With dual use, Mr. Connolly said, “you have two forms of nicotine addiction, and if that’s the future, then we have a real problem, because that’s going to be very difficult to treat.”

Danny McGoldrick, a vice president at Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington advocacy group, said the inconspicuousness of snus, which would likely go undetected even in a classroom, “could entice kids into the habit of tobacco use.”

R. J. Reynolds is also now test-marketing “dissolvables,” which include Camel Orbs, finely ground tobacco in the form of small mint pellets like Tic Tacs, and Camel Strips, which resemble Listerine breath-freshening strips and melt on the tongue. Test cities include Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

For snus, the “early indication is that it it’s largely skewed toward men,” but with dissolvables “we have found that those products probably offer a better opportunity with women tobacco consumers,” Mr. Howard said.

Snus has been used in Sweden since the early 1800s, and today about one million of roughly nine million residents use snus daily, according to Swedish Match, a tobacco company that exited the cigarette business a decade ago to make snus and other smokeless products exclusively. Its General brand of snus is sold at about 500 cigar and tobacco specialty shops in the United States.

About 19 percent of Swedish men (and only 4 percent of women) use snus, according to the company. Correspondingly, the rate of cigarette smoking for men in Sweden is among the lowest in Europe, just 12 percent, the company says, compared to France (30 percent), Germany (37 percent) and Greece (47 percent), according to World Health Organization data, cited by the company. Snus is a “lifestyle product” among Swedes, said Rupini Bergstrom, a Swedish Match spokeswoman, in a telephone interview from Stockholm. “It’s not like the way it is in the U.S., where you have this image of only rednecks using dip or other oral tobacco. If you have bankers sitting in a boardroom here, each will have a snus can on the table.”

Andrew Romeo, a former executive at tobacco companies including Britain’s Gallaher Group, says he believes “snus is a much safer alternative to cigarettes” but understands why R. J. Reynolds is not marketing snus as safer.

“It is worse for public health to put snus across as a complementary product instead of a reduced-harm product, but for R. J. Reynolds it makes total sense,” said Mr. Romeo, who lives in Manhattan. “If Americans have gone from, say, two packs a day down to a pack and a quarter a day — the remainder being what you had smoked in your office or at restaurants — then they’re just trying to sell you this other product to fill your day with tobacco goodness.”

source: http://www.nytimes.com/

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