Philip Morris spokesman David Sylvia said the differences in the nicotine levels “are not significant.”
The variance in the levels, which are disclosed on Philip Morris’ Web site, are a result of the manufacturing process needed to make the various tobacco flavors, Sylvia said.
According to the Web site, Marlboro snus comes in four flavors: rich, mild, mint, and spice. The mild flavor contains the lowest level of nicotine with 14.30 micrograms per gram of tobacco product, while Marlboro Snus Spice contains 17.49 micrograms on a comparable basis.
Although the products remain in just a few test markets, tobacco industry analysts suspect it would be fairly easy for the companies to broaden distribution if the companies chose to do so.
The test markets give the companies time to tinker with the design and marketing message. For example, R.J. Reynolds changed the shape of their tin from a round shape to an oval shape. They felt the round shape caused confusion because it seemed too similar to the moist smokeless tobacco products.
What is going unspoken in this effort is that oral tobacco products have relatively less of a stigma attached to them because they have a lower risk of cancers associated with them. Since the products are not ignited, many of the disease-causing toxins associated with smoking are not present.
The tobacco companies consistently say they have no plans to promote the notion that smokeless tobacco products are healthier than U.S. products in their marketing. However, many people do consider oral tobacco products to be less dangerous than cigarettes because many of the disease-causing toxins associated with smoking are created when tobacco is burned.
There are epidemiological studies that support this idea based on the experience in Sweden, where men use snus more than cigarettes. This behavior has resulted in lower levels of tobacco-related diseases.
But the tobacco companies are not making these claims. Instead they are sticking with the warnings which include one that says: “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”