Study Looks at Test Marketing of New Tobacco Products in Indianapolis
June 4, 2010
- Rich Schneider
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A study of the promotion in the Indianapolis area of R.J. Reynolds' new dissolvable tobacco products found that they are being marketed to current smokers who continue to puff away, but may be looking for an alternative source of nicotine when they can’t light up.
Current smokers who also use dissolvable tobacco may be in effect “doubling up,” said Dr. Laura Romito¸ Clinical Associate Professor of Oral Biology in the IU School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral Biology. They appear to be smoking the same number of cigarettes they smoked in the past and using the new dissolvable products when they are in situations where they can’t smoke.
Given the health risks associated with tobacco, that raises concerns, Romito said.
Tobacco companies view Indianapolis as a good test market for new tobacco products, Romito noted, because of Indiana’s high rate of tobacco use and differing tobacco tastes among Hoosiers.
Dissolvable tobacco products aren’t just new products, they are – as their manufacturer, R.J. Reynolds Co. put it – an evolution in tobacco, Romito said. The dissolvable tobacco simply dissolves in the mouth so that tobacco users no longer have to contend with odor, smoke, spit, or litter.
The dissolvable products are branded as Camel Sticks, Camel Orbs and Camel Strips to denote their three different forms: a toothpick-like stick, a lozenge and an edible strip.
The candy-like appearance of Camel Orbs has led to concerns among health experts who are concerned the products may be attractive to youngsters and lead to early experimentation with tobacco or accidental poisoning among children.
In a field study conducted last January, five undergraduate IUPUI students surveyed how the products were being marketed and where they were being sold in Marion and surrounding counties. They audited a wide variety of advertising media and point-of-purchase displays.
Most of the Camel dissolvable products were being sold in gas stations and convenience stores, with smaller amounts sold in grocery stores, drug stores, tobacco shops and liquor stores.
The students also surveyed about 300 people, including 100 dental hygiene patients, 100 School of Dentistry dental hygiene students, and 100 business school students at IUPUI.
According to the results, few had heard of the new products or knew anything about them, while only three percent had tried them. Most of the respondents didn’t believe the products would be safer to use than cigarettes and only 17 percent thought they would help people quit smoking.
Advertising used to promote the products appeared relatively low-key and not particularly attractive to young people, Romito said.
“What we gleaned from the field study was that so far the new products are not well known to consumers, even when they are smokers,” she said, and sales of the products appeared slow.
Other investigators in the study were Dr. Kim Saxton and Prof. Lorinda Coan, as well as the undergraduate student researchers. The study was sponsored by IUPUI Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute. Dr. Saxton is with IU School of Business and Prof. Coan and Romito are part of the IUPUI Tobacco Cessation and Biobehavioral Center.