A Review of Cigarette Marketing in Canada - 6th Edition - Winter 2007


ads return deceptive colours international brands market share trade mark tracking snus



As if Abba and Ikea weren't enough
Swedish Style Snus comes to Canada

This fall, BAT-Imperial Tobacco Canada chose Edmonton as the location for a test market of an unusual brand extension for its du Maurier family.  The newest du Maurier product is not designed to be smoked, but to be parked between jaw and cheek where nicotine can go through the mouth tissue and into the blood stream.

Canada is the most recent country where tobacco companies have chosen to launch snus-style products under prominent cigarette brand names.  Snus is sold in "Lucky Strike" packaging in South Africa, and under the "Camel" brand name in some U.S. test markets.

Snus is one of several forms of oral tobacco. A century ago, oral tobacco or nasal snuff were common in Canada, but for the past few generations only a small percentage (today under 2%) of tobacco users chose this form of nicotine delivery to manage their addiction. That is to say, historically the trend has been for oral tobacco users to progress to cigarette smoking and not the other way around.

In Sweden, tobacco use has been markedly different than Canada for several generations, and men did not move from oral tobacco to cigarettes as they did in most other western countries. Some have suggested that this may be because Sweden, as a neutral country, did not share the "returning soldiers" experience that swelled cigarette use. Other reasons that reduce cigarette use in Sweden are offered below.

Snus is currently banned in Australia, Israel and all the European Union countries other than Sweden.

It is too early at time of writing (December 2007) to know how Edmonton has responded to the introduction of snus -- but there are signs that BAT-Imperial Tobacco intends to expand its market into some eastern municipalities.

Snus is:

a form of cured and cooked tobacco mixed with salt, flavourings and preservatives which has lower levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines than other oral tobaccos

packaged in loose form or in tea-bag style portions, each of which delivers about the same level of nicotine to a user as a single cigarette

...placed in the mouth between the teeth and the gum. Snus users do not chew or actively suck the tobacco, and do not need to spit

...typically held in the mouth for 30 minutes before being discarded. A typical snus user would consume about 16 sachets each day

...kept in the mouth by the average user for 11 to 14 hours per day.

Snus is different than:

Moist snuff. Like snus, moist snuff is made from grinding tobacco with water and flavourings. Unlike snus, it is fermented rather than cooked. The fermentation process leads to higher levels of cancer-causing nitrosamines.

Nasal Snuff.  Once popular but now rather archaic, nasal snuff is made from fermented and powdered tobacco, and then inhaled up the nostril.

Chewing Tobacco.  Chewing tobacco is dryer, sweeter and made from differently cured tobacco than snus. Chewing tobacco is tucked between the gum and jaw and is chewed or held in place. Saliva is spit or swallowed.

Reducing Harm or Expanding Profits?

Imperial Tobacco maintains that the introduction of snus is a positive step, and is a form of "harm reduction" In their press release they suggest that if Canada were to copy Sweden by adopting widespread use of snus, then tobacco-caused disease would decline. Our analysis suggests they are wrong.

Sweden and Norway are the only two  countries where snus is legal and commonly used.  We compared tobacco use in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Australia (where all forms of oral tobacco are banned) as well as other selected other countries and found nothing to suggest any public health benefit from promoting snus use.

Sweden DOES NOT have lower rates of smoking than Canada.

Although it has a slightly lower rate of daily smoking among men, the overall rate of smoking s almost 25% higher than in Canada. The situation in Norway is almost twice as bad.

There are much lower levels of tobacco addiction in Canada than in Sweden

Sweden and Norway are in MUCH WORSE situations than Canada with respect to the number of people who are addicted to tobacco (including smoking and snus use). Daily use of tobacco products by men is twice as high in Sweden (at 37%) and Norway (at 36%) than in Canada (at 15%).  Among women, daily use of tobacco products is 1.6 times higher in Sweden (at 21%), nearly double in Norway (24%) compared to  Canada (13%).

Sweden and Norway have much higher rates of youth tobacco use than Canada. 

Among those aged 16-24, daily use of tobacco products among men is 2.5 times higher in Sweden (at 37%)  and Norway (at 36%) than it is in Canada (at 15%). There are no fewer ‘never smokers’ in Sweden than in Canada.

Canada has been equally able to protect its population from the onset of smoking as Sweden. It has also protected them from addiction to smokeless tobacco.

Canadian smokers have been more successful at quitting than their Swedish counterparts.

Swedish men—even though snus is widely available and accepted as a smoking alternative — have had less success in quitting than Canadian men, on a population level. Canadian women have been more successful in quitting than Swedish women.

In recent years, Sweden has made much slower progress than Canada in reducing the amount of tobacco consumed. Unlike Sweden, Canada is experiencing a decline in per capita consumption in all forms of tobacco. Sweden is one of the few developed countries where total tobacco consumption is not falling.
Sweden has lower rates of mortality from smoking than Canada, but is making slower progress. Canada—without snus use—is making faster progress against smoking related deaths among both men and women — than Sweden is.

Sweden’s success is more likely due to early tobacco control laws and programmes than to the use of snus as an ‘alternative’ to smoking.

Sweden was one of the first countries to adopt comprehensive tobacco control measures, well before Canada or other countries.  During the 1960s and 1970s, Swedes were not exposed to cigarette advertising on television or radio, as most Swedish broadcasts did not have any commercial advertising.

Tobacco marketing was severely reduced after a 1971 court action, and was legally banned in many venues in 1979.  By 1987 (when a single voluntary Canadian warning still advised smokers to ‘avoid inhaling’), Swedish cigarette packages displayed 1 of 13 large rotating health warning messages. Five of these messages were about second hand smoke.

Swedish efforts to implement tobacco control measures arguably faced less industry resistance than did Canadian efforts because the Swedish government owned and controlled the largest tobacco company until the early 1990s.

Since the 1990s, Sweden has undergone policy reversals. After joining the European Union, the number of and size of warnings was reduced. Following privatization of Swedish Match, tobacco companies now market more aggressively. Sweden currently is making slower progress in reducing tobacco use than Canada.

For our  full analysis, see: Lessons from Norway, Sweden and Canada on the public health consequences of widespread oral tobacco use.


Sweden's health warning message on cigarettes, ca. 1987


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