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Receipt and use of prohibited free samples of tobacco products among US adults who use cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco, 2020
  1. Naa A Inyang1,
  2. Brett R Loomis2,
  3. Caryn F Nagler1,
  4. Ellen M Coats2,
  5. Christine Saba1,
  6. McKinley Saunders2,
  7. Sherry T Liu1
  1. 1 Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  2. 2 Center for Health Analytics, Media, and Policy, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Naa A Inyang, Center for Tobacco Products, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, MD 20993, USA; naa.inyang{at}


Objectives In the USA, tobacco product free samples (FS) are prohibited, except for smokeless tobacco samples distributed under certain conditions in qualified adult-only facilities. We examined prevalence and frequency of FS receipt among adults who use tobacco, channels of FS distribution and the potential effect of FS use on subsequent product purchase.

Methods From 15 April through 12 July 2020, a total of 1989 adult participants in the National Panel of Tobacco Consumer Studies completed a mixed-mode survey on receipt and use of FS of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookah tobacco. We estimated weighted proportions, population totals and 95% CIs. We used χ2 tests to assess differences between FS recipients and non-recipients.

Results An estimated 11.0% of US adults who use tobacco received an FS in 2020. Similar proportions received FS of cigarettes (3.8%), cigars (3.3%), smokeless tobacco (3.2%) and e-cigarettes (2.7%). Approximately 60.0% of FS recipients used it, and 68.1% of those who used FS said they were likely to purchase the product. More than half (54.2%) received FS on two or more occasions in the past 12 months, most commonly at retail outlets and tobacco specialty stores.

Conclusions While prevalence of adults who use tobacco receiving FS is relatively low, findings indicate that FS distribution continues to occur for cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, though in-person FS of smokeless tobacco may be legally distributed under certain conditions in qualified adult-only facilities. Findings suggest that FS are often used by recipients, which can affect future purchase decisions.

  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Illegal tobacco products
  • Public policy

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to conceptualisation of the study design. NAI led the conceptualisation and drafting of this paper. BRL developed the data analysis plan and EMC and MS performed formal data analysis. BRL, EMC, MS, CFN and CS contributed to drafting of this paper. STL provided supervisory support, drafting and review of this paper.

  • Funding This work was conducted under the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (Contract No HHSF223201510002B, Order No HHSF22317005; and Contract No HHSF223201510002B, Order No HHSF22318001).

  • Disclaimer The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the US Food and Drug Administration.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.