Introduction VLN King menthol and non-menthol are the first combustible cigarettes to receive US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorisation as modified risk tobacco products. Focusing on the first retail test market, this study characterised VLN advertising, product placement, discounts and price.
Methods All Chicago-area Circle K stores (n=133) were telephoned to assess whether they sold VLN. Single-pack price of non-menthol was obtained in 57 of 100 stores that sold VLN. In fall 2022, trained data collectors visited those 57 stores to assess VLN product placement, advertising, discounts and prices. Paired t-tests compared observed VLN price with telephone price and to price of other cigarette brands.
Results Nearly all stores (91.1%) displayed exterior advertisements for VLN, and 41.1% displayed interior advertising, with 8.9% of stores advertising VLN in the power wall but never in the header row. VLN cigarettes were displayed in the power wall exclusively and among high-nicotine cigarettes. Some VLN marketing claims were not FDA-authorised. VLN advertised a sweepstakes offer and rewards programme. Most stores (85.7%) offered VLN discounts. VLN was priced like a premium brand (mean=$10.90, SD=$1.53), and prices obtained by telephone did not differ from observed prices several months later.
Conclusions Retail marketing strategies for VLN mimic those for high-nicotine cigarettes. Deviations from FDA-authorised marketing claims were evident. Surveillance in future test markets is recommended to assess compliance with marketing claims and examine relative price and discount offers. Of interest is how premium-priced, low-nicotine cigarettes stand to compete in a market dominated by cheaper high-nicotine cigarettes.
- Advertising and Promotion
- Tobacco industry
- Surveillance and monitoring
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Contributors All authors developed the survey instrument. LH drafted the manuscript and obtained funding. TOJ managed the data collection. MM made significant revisions to the draft. NCS led the analyses. AA programmed the surveillance instrument and collected data. JJP made significant revisions to the draft. All authors reviewed and contributed to the final submission.
Funding Research from Advancing Science and Practice in the Retail Environment is funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (grant number 1 P01 CA225597). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Competing interests JJP has provided consultation to pharmaceutical and technology companies that make medications and other treatments for quitting smoking and has served as an expert witness in lawsuits against the tobacco companies.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.