'No-Barriers' tobacco product? Selling smokeless tobacco to women, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community in the USA

Tob Control. 2023 May;32(3):330-337. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-056178. Epub 2021 Oct 1.


Background: In both Sweden and the USA, smokeless tobacco (ST) is legal and used predominantly by men. Starting in the 1970s, US tobacco companies attempted to expand the ST market to women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual orientation (LGBTQ+) people.

Design: We analysed industry documents from the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library triangulating findings with recent ST advertising and publicly available literature.

Findings: We found tobacco companies used design innovations such as pouched moist snuff, snus and dissolvable products to expand the market. In addition, diverse advertising campaigns targeted women, people of colour (Hispanic, African American) and LGBTQ+ communities with identity-targeted messages emphasising novelty, convenience, cleanliness and use in smoke-free environments. However, stereotypes of ST users as rural white males endured, perpetuated by continued marketing aimed at this customer base, which created cognitive dissonance and stymied marketer's hopes that pouch products would 'democratize' ST.

Conclusion: These failed campaigns suggest novel products such as nicotine pouch products may provide a 'clean slate' to similarly target women and other low-ST-using groups. Based on this history, the risk of new tobacco and nicotine products to increase health disparities should be closely monitored.

Keywords: advertising and promotion; non-cigarette tobacco products; priority/special populations; tobacco industry documents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotiana
  • Nicotine
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Tobacco, Smokeless*
  • United States


  • Nicotine