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MRTP claim authorisation and General Snus sales in the USA: evidence from a difference-in-differences model


Background The 2009 Tobacco Control Act granted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco products, including the ability to authorise modified-risk tobacco product (MRTP) claims. In October 2019, the FDA authorised the first-ever MRTP claim for General Snus, which allowed the product to be marketed as reduced risk (relative to cigarettes). MRTP authorisation may increase otherwise low rates of snus use in the USA (<0.5% for children and adults).

Methods Using 2017–2021 Nielsen sales data from 19 US states, we conducted a difference-in-differences analysis to determine whether logged unit sales of General Snus were affected by the MRTP authorisation, compared with (1) sales of other snus brands and (2) sales of non-snus smokeless products; we also examined (3) if sales of non-General Snus brands were affected by General Snus’s MRTP authorisation, compared with sales of non-snus smokeless tobacco products.

Results Although sales declined in absolute terms, sales of General Snus relative to other snus brands were unchanged after MRTP authorisation (−9.0%, 95% CI −19.6% to 1.60%, p=0.098). However, compared with non-snus smokeless brand sales, sales of General Snus (+14.7%, 95% CI 5.23% to 24.2%, p=0.002) rose after MRTP authorisation. Compared with non-snus smokeless products, sales of non-General Snus brands also rose after MRTP authorisation (+23.7%, 95% CI 9.5% to 38.0%, p=0.001).

Conclusions Although only General Snus received MRTP authorisation, this designation appears to have slowed declines for the entire snus category. This suggests consumers may make determinations regarding product risk to a product class rather than individual products.

  • Non-cigarette tobacco products
  • Public policy
  • Harm Reduction
  • Advertising and Promotion

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