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Tobacco control research, policy and advocacy are replete with ‘tobacco-free’ terminology. For instance, there are tobacco-free initiatives targeting removal of tobacco use, imagery and branding from major entertainment media.1 2 There are also policies promoting tobacco-free college campuses,3 parks,4 pharmacies5 and workplaces6 which help protect the environment from tobacco product litter, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and denormalise tobacco use. The goals of these and other efforts are to create a tobacco-free generation7 and even a tobacco-free world.8
In recent years, tobacco manufacturers have begun using tobacco-free terminology to market tobacco products. Tobacco-free marketing has been used in at least two contexts. The first is to claim that the product’s nicotine source is not tobacco-derived (ie, ‘tobacco-free nicotine’, also known as synthetic nicotine). For example, in 2021, the most popular e-cigarette brand among US high school students was Puff Bar, which the manufacturer markets as being made with tobacco-free nicotine.9 10 For a short period of time, there was uncertainty with regard to how and whether products made with synthetic nicotine (eg, e-cigarettes) should be regulated. However, in April 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gained regulatory authority over tobacco products made with synthetic nicotine.11
The second use of tobacco-free terminology by the tobacco industry is to communicate that a nicotine-containing product is not made with tobacco leaf. For instance, such marketing is commonly used to describe nicotine pouches. First …
Contributors AS wrote the first draft and AK critically revised the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the offocial views of the National Institutes of Health.
Competing interests No, there are no competing interests.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.