New Product Marketing Blurs the Line Between Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Smokeless Tobacco Products

Ganna Kostygina, PhD; Lucinda England, MD, MSPH; Pamela Ling, MD, MPH

Disclosures

Am J Public Health. 2016;106(7):1219-1222. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Tobacco companies have begun to acquire pharmaceutical subsidiaries and recently started to market nicotine replacement therapies, such as Zonnic nicotine gum, in convenience stores.

Conversely, tobacco companies are producing tobacco products such as tobacco chewing gum and lozenges that resemble pharmaceutical nicotine replacement products, including a nicotine pouch product that resembles snus pouches.

This convergence of nicotine and tobacco product marketing has implications for regulation and tobacco cessation.

Introduction

In response to declining cigarette sales, Reynolds American Inc. (the second largest US cigarette manufacturer) and other cigarette companies have ventured into the manufacturing and sales of smokeless tobacco and other nicotine-containing products.[1] In 2009, Reynolds American acquired the Swedish company Niconovum AB, which makes nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, including nicotine gum and oral spray.[2] In September 2012, Reynolds American began test marketing Zonnic nicotine gum, the company's first NRT product to be sold in the United States, in the state of Iowa and in Omaha, Nebraska.[3]

Each package of Zonnic nicotine gum contained 10 pieces of mint-, cinnamon-, or fruit-flavored gum and cost $3.65, about half the price of a pack of cigarettes in Des Moines, Iowa.[2,3] Zonnic is available in both 2-mg and 4-mg strengths, delivering 1 and 2 mg of nicotine, respectively, less than the amount typically delivered by cigarettes.[4] However, gum products do not deliver nicotine as quickly as cigarettes.[5] Zonnic is currently sold nationwide, primarily in convenience stores and gas stations.[3]

In contrast to Zonnic, most nicotine gum and lozenge products traditionally have been packaged as 80 to 100 pieces for $20 and up and have been sold mainly in drugstores. According to Tommy Payne, president of Niconovum USA Inc. (and former Reynolds American executive vice president of public affairs), the company is seeking to "bring smokers into NRT that haven't been in the category before, whether because of cost, access and motivation."[6]

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