Tobacco companies' interests in smokeless tobacco products in Europe are driven by profit not health

September 10, 2013

Transnational tobacco companies' investments in smokeless tobacco products, such as snus (a moist tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip), in Europe are not due to a concern for the health impacts of smoking but are instead driven purely by business interests according to new research by Silvy Peeters and Anna Gilmore from the University of Bath UK and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, published this week in PLOS Medicine.

To inform the policy debate surrounding snus, which is banned from sale in the European Union (EU) under legislation that is currently being reviewed in Brussels, the researchers analysed internal tobacco industry documents that have been made available by litigation alongside contemporary industry documentation to examine the historical interests of transnational tobacco companies. The analysis reveals tobacco companies' efforts to enter the EU market, and influence national and EU . The researchers also compare the industry's privately documented interests (observed via internal documents and investor presentations) with those harm reduction pursuits it has publicly espoused, and explore the implications for EU tobacco control policy.

Although the analysis was limited by the extent of the documents available to the researchers, the authors say, "[t]here is clear evidence that [British American Tobacco]'s early interest in introducing [] in Europe was based on the potential for creating an alternative form of in light of declining and social restrictions on smoking, with young people a key target."

The authors note, "[the study's findings] indicate that the industry's rhetoric on harm reduction has been inconsistent with historical and recent documents and business actions. Instead, the findings suggest that the [transnational tobacco companies'] interest in reduced-risk products lies in maintaining the status quo in favour of cigarettes for as long as possible while simultaneously providing a longer-term source of profit should the cigarette model prove unsustainable; the reputational benefits are an additional asset."

The authors conclude, "by investing in snus, and recently nicotine, [transnational tobacco companies] have eliminated competition between cigarettes and lower-risk products, thus helping maintain the current market balance in favour of (highly profitable) cigarettes while ensuring [transnational '] long-term future should cigarette sales decline further and profit margins be eroded."

Explore further: Smokeless tobacco sold illegally online, UK researchers find

More information: Peeters S, Gilmore AB (2013) Transnational Tobacco Company Interests in Smokeless Tobacco in Europe: Analysis of Internal Industry Documents and Contemporary Industry Materials. PLoS Med 10(9): e1001506. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001506

Related Stories

Tobacco companies are not public health stakeholders

May 28, 2013

When assessing information presented by the tobacco industry, the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and regulatory bodies in other countries, should be aware that they are dealing with companies with a ...

FDA allows two new cigarettes to hit market

June 25, 2013

(HealthDay)—Using its newfound authority to regulate tobacco, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has for the first time allowed two new cigarette brands to hit the market.

Recommended for you

Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered

June 23, 2016

People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don't, according to new research by Australian and UK environmental scientists.

Is 'when we eat' as important as 'what we eat'?

June 21, 2016

In a review of research on the effect of meal patterns on health, the few studies available suggest that eating irregularly is linked to a higher risk of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity). ...

Beyond the sweetness of sugar

June 24, 2016

We all know the nutritional "evils" of sugar as a potential cause of obesity, chronic disease and death, through to being a potentially brain damaging substance.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.