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Tob Control. 2007 December; 16(6): 377.
PMCID: PMC2807186

Tobacco Control Online:

The following electronic only article is published in conjunction with this issue of Tobacco Control.

“I always thought they were all pure tobacco”: American smokers' perceptions of “natural” cigarettes and tobacco industry advertising strategies

Patricia A McDaniel, Ruth E Malone

Objective: To examine how the US tobacco industry markets cigarettes as “natural” and American smokers' views of the “naturalness” (or unnaturalness) of cigarettes.

Methods: Internal tobacco industry documents, the Pollay 20th Century Tobacco Ad Collection, and newspaper sources, and categorised themes and strategies were reviewed, and the findings were summarised.

Results: Cigarette advertisements have used the term “natural” since at least 1910, but it was not until the 1950s that “natural” referred to a core element of brand identity, used to describe specific product attributes (filter, menthol, tobacco leaf). The term “additive‐free”, introduced in the 1980s, is now commonly used to define natural cigarettes. Market research with smokers, available from 1970 to 1998, consistently revealed that within focus group sessions, smokers initially expressed difficulty about interpretation of the term “natural” in relation to cigarettes; however, after discussion of cigarette ingredients, smokers viewed “natural” cigarettes as healthier. Tobacco companies regarded the implied health benefits of natural cigarettes as their key selling point, but hesitated to market them as it might raise doubts about the composition of their highly profitable regular brands.

Conclusion: Although our findings support the idea advanced by some tobacco control advocates that informing smokers of conventional cigarettes' chemical ingredients could promote cessation, they also suggest that such a measure could also increase the ubiquity and popularity of “natural” cigarettes. A more effective approach may be to denaturalise smoking.

(Tobacco Control 2007;16:e7)

Articles from Tobacco Control are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group