Background: With declining cigarette sales, increasing restrictions, and recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of cigarettes, there has been a dramatic rise in the marketing of noncombustible tobacco products (NCPs). However, little is known about how NCPs are advertised and to whom.
Methods: Two full-service advertising firms were used to systematically collect all U.S. advertisements for NCPs (e-cigarettes, snus, dissolvables, and chew/dip/snuff,) running between June 1 and September 1, 2012. The advertisement and associated metadata (brand, media channel, observations, spend, and estimated reach) were examined. Attributes of print advertisements were examined relative to target demographics of the publications in which they ran.
Results: Over 3 months, almost $20 million was spent advertising NCPs. Although the greatest amount spent was on the promotion of smokeless (~$8 million) and snus (~$10 million), e-cigarette advertisements were the most widely circulated. Print advertisements, the majority of which were e-cigarettes and chew/dip/snuff, were heavily tailored to middle-aged White males. Many e-cigarette print ads suggested harm reduction and use when one cannot smoke (poly-use), while chew/dip/snuff focused on masculinity.
Conclusions: Robust ongoing surveillance of NCP advertising is critical to inform the FDA and to protect public health. Both commercial advertising and public health media campaigns must ensure that content is not misleading and that it educates consumers about harm based on the available science. The way messages are framed have the potential to decrease tobacco use by promoting rather than undermining cessation of combusted products and/or by encouraging exclusive use of less harmful NCPs rather than poly-use of combusted and NCPs.