Beyond the brotherhood: Skoal Bandits' role in the evolution of marketing moist smokeless tobacco pouches

Tob Induc Dis. 2017 Dec 19;15:46. doi: 10.1186/s12971-017-0150-y. eCollection 2017.


Background: Since 2006, "snus" smokeless tobacco has been sold in the U.S.. However, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco (USST) and Swedish Match developed and marketed pouched moist snuff tobacco (MST) since 1973.

Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco documents, advertisements and trade press.

Results: USST partnered with Swedish Match, forming United Scandia International to develop pouch products as part of the "Lotus Project." Pouched MST was not commonly used, either in Sweden or the U.S. prior to the Lotus Project's innovation in 1973. The project aimed to transform smokeless tobacco from being perceived as an "unsightly habit of old men" into a relevant, socially acceptable urban activity, targeting 15-35 year-old men. While USST's initial pouched product "Good Luck," never gained mainstream traction, Skoal Bandits captured significant market share after its 1983 introduction. Internal market research found that smokers generally used Skoal Bandits in smokefree environments, yet continued to smoke cigarettes in other contexts. Over time, pouch products increasingly featured increased flavor, size, nicotine strength and user imagery variation.

Conclusions: Marlboro and Camel Snus advertising mirrors historical advertising for Skoal Bandits, designed to recruit new users and smokers subjected to smokefree places. Despite serious efforts, pouched MST marketing has been unable to dispel its association with traditional smokeless tobacco stereotypes as macho and rural. Public education efforts to discourage new users and dual use of MST and cigarettes should emphasize that "new" pouch products are simply repackaging "old" smokeless tobacco.

Keywords: Changing demographics; Moist snuff tobacco; Product innovation; Redefining masculinity; Tobacco industry marketing.