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Skoal’s Return Ramps Up Smokeless Tobacco Ads in Magazines

May 28, 2014

Cigarettes and electronic cigarettes aren’t the only tobacco products being heavily advertised in magazines with large youth readerships.

So are smokeless tobacco products, especially now that the Skoal brand is again advertising in magazines for the first time since February 2009, according to the Trinkets & Trash website, which tracks tobacco advertising.

The new Skoal ads feature young men relaxing by a campfire or taking thrill rides on ATVs – themes and images likely to appeal to teenage boys. The message is clear: To enjoy the summer with friends, you need a can of Skoal.

The Skoal ads have appeared in recent issues of publications popular among young men and teen boys, including Sports Illustrated, Car and Driver and Maxim.

Skoal, produced by the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (a subsidiary of Altria), was once the most popular brand of smokeless tobacco among youth ages 12-17, but now ranks third – behind Grizzly and Copenhagen – which perhaps explains the new campaign (source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health). Currently, 12.8 percent of high school boys use smokeless tobacco.

While Skoal ads have only recently reappeared, Grizzly – made by American Snuff Company, a subsidiary of Reynolds American – has aggressively advertised in magazines for years with a similar message that you can’t be a real man without smokeless tobacco. With tag lines like “If you use less than three tools, it’s not DIY” and “May Cause the Urge to Act Like a Man” and its “Man Rules” sweepstakes, Grizzly associates tobacco use with ruggedness and manhood, much like the Marlboro Man has long done.

With ad campaigns like these, it’s little surprise that, over the past few decades, the profile of the typical smokeless tobacco user has changed. Once a product used primarily by older men, smokeless tobacco is now used predominantly by young men and boys.

According to the most recent data available from the Federal Trade Commission, tobacco companies spent $451.7 million on smokeless tobacco marketing in 2011—more than three times the amount spent in 1998.

The U.S. Surgeon General has found that smokeless tobacco use “represents a significant health risk.” It has been found to cause oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions, and has also been linked to other forms of cancer.

Images of Grizzly and Skoal ads: Trinkets and Trash