Wednesday, 26 November 2008 20:02

A Worthy Snus Conspiracy Theory

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Some of the most interesting items I discuss and learn from readers is by email and in my article comments. Many people post comments to older posts which is why I have comment moderation enabled: I want to make sure I read every one and respond whenever possible.

One of our group of friends here posts under the name "Anonymous Tobacco Guy". He is from Europe until recently and his perspective puts an interesting twist on some subjects. On others, we disagree. But he put forth a theory in comments so interesting that I wanted to post it and my reply for everyone to see.

I was never big on conspiracy theories until I really got into investigating Big American Tobacco; especially in regards to snus. Here's one I've never seen discussed and present for your thoughts:

Anonymous Tobacco Guy Here:

Mr. UNZ: Thanks for your 'wake-up' call on apnea. I got it, and have to work on it ASAP.

I wouldn't get too excited about positive articles in the press on snus. Usually, there is someone behind them who is in Corporate Affairs of one of the tobacco companies. One major article in summer 2007 in WSJ Europe was set up by ESTOC, the European Smokeless Tobacco Council (all major manufacturers sans PM). Without that give-and-take, it would be quite difficult for a newspaper to go positive on a tobacco product.

What is interesting, is that all the US "sweet" snuses except Marlboro were developed in Sweden. Camel was created and originally produced at F&L in round 'Mocca' tins, and the Nordic American products were created in Gotland by Taboca. Triumph was developed by SM in Gothenburg for Lorillard.

PM had the expertise of the Rocker factory for dry snus, and then developed proprietary machine technology with GD Bologna for US production, and came up with the crap which is Taboka and Marlboro.

Any flavor differences between US and Swedish snus are from research amongst smokers in the US, and probably expensive and thorough research at that. American-blend cigarettes all contain a degree of flavors and resulting sweetness which are added into the production process. This could be a starting point for the sweet snuses. 45 million American Smokers are the desired demographic, and not Swedish snus lovers.

Putting on my paranoid Anti-Tobacco Detector hat, I can also predict how they will attack sweet snus as a way to attract kids to tobacco. Once hooked, they will seek the stronger nicotine delivery which comes with cigarettes. In the south, a buck buys you a nice round tin. And thus, the true harm reduction of the product will be lost in the dust.

As for the 'like pasteurization' claim of NAS's (Nordic American: Klondike and Nordic Ice) new website, don't forget that one cannot take creative license with the production process. Snus is pasteurized. Period.

If is not produced according to Swedish Food Law standards, it cannot be called 'snus.' If it's not heat-pasteurized, it's not snus.

Waiting for the site!

November 24, 2008 12:49 PM

mr_unz_prime241x196Mr. UnloadingZone said...

Hi Anonymous Tobacco Guy!

You make a very interesting point about the American "sickly sweet" flavor snus's originally developed in Sweden.

RE: Taboka and Marlboro snus; especially Taboka, is that the Phillip Morris 1847 is the exception BUT it was never designed for import into the USA. It was designed to compete with Swedish Match thus no sweet taste.

There are of course flavored, even sweet, Scandinavian snus's...V2's OffRoad brand coming the closest to American but while it's sweet, it's not sickly sweet.

PM's Taboka disaster proving that "Original and Menthol" were not the way to go in America and the focus groups may have pushed them towards sweet....but sickly sweet? Was that their own idea, or a Swedish "suggestion"?

I could almost put on your paranoid hat and suggest the Swedish deliberately encouraged the radical flavor difference so that "American Snus" would not become competition to them outside the US.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? What an interesting new line of thought to consider.

The sweetness argument will come into play, I still believe that the primary FDA and Congressional objective is the banning of cigarettes. The social pressure has worked down all the way to the local level. Politicians can't ignore 3/4 of the American public, especially those eligible to vote.

On the other hand, without the tax revenue from cigarettes the 46+ million American cigarette smokers generate, the State governments especially would collapse financially.

When Texas increased it's cigarette tax by a dollar a pack, convenience store sales dropped 30%. This of course hurt the poor owners of these stores.

But at the same time, Texas Governor Perry bragged that, despite the drop in sales, cigarette tax revenue increased $13MM that month.

So what is the Government and Big Tobacco to do? How do you ban cigarettes, yet replace the tax revenue and not put Big Tobacco and tobacco farmers out of business?

"For the sake of the children" is a long used, tired, yet still commonly used justification for a lot of bad legislation, particularly those that are "revenue enhancing" in the USA for decades if not longer.

Camel's new dis-solvable products, nicotine "fat tooth-picks", and other seemingly low adoption products which they are preparing to launch along with Camel SNUS nationwide in the first quarter 2009 is more than a just a coincidence.

The States NEED tax revenue to replace cigarettes. I am a firm believer in "follow the money".

And while I have significant differences with her on corporate responsibility to the consumer versus obscene profits, I have a great deal of respect for the insights and strategic planning talents of Susan Ivey of Reynolds.

These new (other than SNUS) products make no sense: not with the years, money, and effort they have put into Camel SNUS.

For the same reason chewing tobacco could never substitute because of the spitting, walking around the office with a Camel nicotine stick poking out of your mouth is a non-starter for cigarette smokers.

Discreet is the key. Dis-solvable products will go over with smokers like nicotine pills and patches...badly.

In fact, it's almost as if these products were DESIGNED to appeal to children more than SNUS.... almost as if they were DESIGNED to fail.

Until I actually see them, try them, and see if I'm wrong on smoker reaction, I think the silly new products Camel is introducing simultaneously with SNUS going national have two purposes:

1. By their silliness, encourage sales of Camel SNUS among adult smokers by giving them a less-acceptable comparison point.

2. And since your "for the children" argument has already arisen, I think Reynolds quickly designed these senseless products as a throw-away to be the trade-off in keeping SNUS legal: they will "reluctantly" agree to take these product off the market, let Congress and the FDA appear hero's, and establish SNUS (and by default, snus in general) as an adult product in the minds of the public.

Sort of like some of the valueless "concessions" Big Tobacco made in the 1998 Master Settlement agreement. The key for the Government was the cash settlement and for Big Tobacco, to be able to still sell cigarettes.

Camel SNUS and it's competitors will survive Congress: nicotine lollipops and candy won't.

It's a win/win plan for Reynolds, for the American snus industry, and even the Swedish Snus industry, although I'm sure Reynolds wishes it was only a win for Camel SNUS.

It's a win for the Government because they can allow (and highly tax) snus while pointing to how they "saved" America's youth from the nicotine candy products RJRT tried to introduce...Congress can say they "stood up" to Big Tobacco.

It's all about follow the money, banning cigarettes, and making sure there is a taxable replacement.

As to Nordic American, Amen.

Larry Waters writing as.....

The Snus Guru

November 26, 2008 9:39 PM


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