U.S. Smokeless considers selling snuff as tobacco that lacks secondhand smoke
The nation's leading snuff maker has asked the federal ad regulator to help it decide whether it's all right to sell snuff as tobacco without secondhand smoke.
U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. wants to tell cigarette smokers to switch to Revel, one of its newest products, to protect other people from secondhand smoke. The product, which is in development, is a tobacco-filled packet, like a tea bag, which consumers suck on. It comes in mint flavors.
The company would like the Federal Trade Commission's opinion before launching the new ad.
"We realize this is a controversial topic, so we're giving them the opportunity to give us comments," Spokesman Mike Bazinet said.
A spokeswoman for the FTC declined to comment. The agency generally does not pre-approve ads. The job of the FTC is to prevent false and deceptive advertising.
The proposed ad features a young couple arm in arm. The copy reads, "I was a smoker but my wife hated the smoke," It then says, "No secondhand smoke. Another reason to switch to Revel."
Bazinet said there is nothing untrue about the ad. "In this case, it's a pretty straightforward product attribute comparison," Bazinet said.
The new ad raised concerns among anti-smoking advocates.
"The real risk is that this ad will appeal to smokers who might otherwise have quit," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The company submitted a similar ad for review last year, but subsequently withdrew it. In that ad, the company wanted to say smokeless products in general, such as snuff and chewing tobacco, were safer than cigarettes. The FTC had not weighed in when the company withdrew its request.
Most anti-smoking advocates opposed the original ad, saying it would encourage smokers to start using smokeless products instead of kicking the tobacco habit altogether.
Congress passed a law in 1986 requiring the placement of surgeon general's warnings on all smokeless tobacco products. That followed the release of a government report that concluded smokeless tobacco causes cancer and other diseases and is not a safer substitute for cigarette smoking.
U.S. Smokeless Tobacco primarily makes moist snuff, which is shredded tobacco that users place between their lip and gum. The Greenwich, Conn.-based company has manufacturing plants in Nashville, Tenn.; Hopkinsville, Ky.; and Franklin Park, Ill.