246955 Power of Marketing: Snus as a Swedish Heritage Product

Monday, October 31, 2011

Jennifer Gerwick, BA, BS , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Elena O. Lingas, DrPH, MPH , College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University California, Vallejo, CA
Background: Snus, a moist smokeless tobacco product, is identified as traditionally Swedish. RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris are selling snus products in the US, highlighting the product's Swedish roots in their marketing materials. We sought to understand whether the association of snus with Swedish tradition is perception or reality. Methods: We analyzed previously secret tobacco industry documents, Swedish newspaper archives and the scientific literature. Results: Swedish snus was introduced in the mid 17th century. Use peaked in Sweden in the early 20th century and declined sharply. Use was low until the 1960s when the state-owned tobacco monopoly (AB Svenka Tobaksmonopolet) targeted young professionals. The marketing was immediately successful; the median age of snus users dropped from 41 in 1969-70 to 30 in 1972-73. This marketing effort joined snus to Swedish identity so strongly that many Swedes were willing to forgo membership in the European Union (EU), which banned snus in 1992. When Sweden joined the EU in 1993, an exception based on cultural heritage allowed for the continued sales and use of snus in Sweden. Swedish Match and Philip Morris have agreed to jointly sell snus internationally and are increasing pressure to reverse the EU ban on the product. Implications: Snus saw a renaissance in Sweden due to a marketing campaign that altered its image. The association of snus with Swedish heritage is positive for tobacco companies in Sweden and other countries. This is a concern for tobacco control as snus is increasingly marketed internationally as an alternative to cigarettes.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Explain the historical origin of Swedish snus. 2. Describe how Swedish snus went from a product used on the population’s margins to one that signified Swedish heritage 3. Discuss the tobacco control implications of the identification of snus as a “traditional” Swedish product.

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified because I am a MPH/MSPAS student who has been working on this research with my supervisor
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.