A New Player in an Old Field

Published in: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, Volume 12, Number 1 (September 2017), page 40. doi: 10.1186/s13011-017-0124-3

Posted on RAND.org on September 19, 2017

by Min Gong, Michael Stephen Dunbar, Claude Messan Setodji, William G. Shadel

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This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Question

  1. What effects are innovative tobacco products like Zonnic® likely to have on the nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) market and on consumers?

The tobacco industry is continually evolving to adapt to increasing tobacco control pressure and regulation, and to cater to consumer preferences. Recently, RJ Reynolds rolled-out a nicotine-containing gum, Zonnic®, which is marketed as a smoking cessation and reduction product and is sold at convenience stores at a lower price and in a smaller quantity than existing brands sold at pharmacies. The introduction of Zonnic® products is a critical first step in tobacco industry's involvement in the NRT market and a serious indication of the evolving tobacco and nicotine-delivery industry and environment. It is likely that this trend will continue and spread, and as such, have a significant impact at multiple dimensions, including consumer perceptions and behavior, tobacco and NRT industry business strategy, and regulation and policy. In this special communication, we present an overview of the current marketing strategy for Zonnic®, discuss its potential impacts at the market level and at the level of the individual consumer, and suggest research and policy priorities based on the magnitude and urgency of the impacts.

Key Findings

  • Zonnic® products are similar to other NRT products on the market, but because they are manufactured and marketed by a major tobacco company they have a competitive advantage in terms of prices, placement, and promotion capability.
  • Its advertising theme to "Take it one less cigarette at a time" encourages use over the long term, as well as dual use with cigarettes, which may bring unintended consequences for public health.
  • Positioning Zonnic® close to the tobacco power wall could interfere with other tobacco marketing.
  • Concern over whether Zonnic® blurs the line between NRT and smokeless tobacco raises issues regarding regulation of the product, and also whether non-tobacco users are intended as consumers.


Future research should consider the following:

  • How does increased NRT accessibility affect rates of smoking cessation?
  • What percentage of NRT purchases are used for smoking cessation versus non-cessation purposes (e.g., to supplement nicotine intake when smoking is not permitted)?
  • How does the presence and promotion of Zonnic® affect consumers' perception of NRT or other cessation approaches?
  • Are consumers aware of the relationship between Zonnic® and its manufacturer?
  • If so, how does this affect consumer perceptions of the manufacturer and other tobacco companies?

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