Since 2006, leading US cigarette companies have been promoting new snus products as line extensions of popular cigarette brands. These promotional efforts include direct mail marketing to consumers on cigarette company mailing lists. This study examines smokers' reactions to this advertising and perceptions of the new snus products.Methods
Eight focus groups (n=65 participants) were conducted in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2010 with smokers who received tobacco direct mail advertising. The focus group discussions assessed smokers' perceptions of the new snus products. Focus group videos were transcribed and coded using Transana software to identify common themes.Results
Most participants were aware of snus advertising and many had tried free samples. Most were aware that snus was supposed to be ‘different’ from traditional chewing tobacco but consistently did not know why. Participants willing to try snus still identified strongly as smokers, and for some participants, trying snus reinforced their preference for smoking. Snus' major benefits were use in smoke-free environments and avoiding social stigma related to secondhand smoke. Participants were sceptical of the idea that snus was safer than cigarettes and did not see it as an acceptable substitute for cigarettes or as a cessation aid.Conclusions
Smokers repeated some messages featured in early snus advertising. Snus was not seen as an acceptable substitute for smoking or way to quit cigarettes. Current smoker responses to snus advertising are not consistent with harm reduction.