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In a press release dated April 6, 2009, Swedish Match North America announced the launch of a new website promoting its General Snus brand.1 Included with this release was a link to a professionally made video hosted on the YouTube website. Entitled ‘General Snus Is The Less Harmful Alternative. Do You SNUS,’ the video described General Snus flavours, features of the new website and directed viewers to the website with an offer of free samples.2
The General Snus promotional video has since been ‘removed by the user’ from YouTube and is no longer available for viewing. However, monitoring by our research staff has identified an additional six professionally produced videos on the YouTube site which promote Swedish Match products.3–8 The characteristics of these videos are presented in table 1. Three videos describe snus manufacturing and production in Swedish Match facilities, two videos describe how to use snus and one video provides a historical description of snus and Swedish Match products. All videos except one feature Swedish Match product branding. None of the videos have adequate restrictions to prevent viewing by minors.
According to CSP Daily News, a business publication for the convenience store and food service industries, Swedish Match is engaging ‘a promotional army’ to market General Snus in the USA. In addition to marketing at several cultural events, including the Sundance Film Festival and New York's Fashion Week, CSP reports that Swedish Match ‘will undertake an email and social media campaign incorporating Facebook and Twitter in particular’.9 Thus, YouTube is not the only social media site Swedish Match may be using to market its products.
As advertising restrictions have curtailed the tobacco industry's ability to market their products through traditional media in parts of the world, the industry may be turning to online social media to market its products. In addition to Swedish Match promoting its products on YouTube, a recent report by Freeman and Chapman identified British American Tobacco marketing on Facebook.10 Regulators need to be cognizant of tobacco industry marketing on social media and appropriate regulation and systematic monitoring are urgently needed.
Funding Supported by National Cancer Institute grant #1RO1CA125224.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.
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