It might seem counterintuitive: a tobacco giant jumping into the pharmaceutical market. But with the national launch of Zonnic, Reynolds American thinks it can redefine an area typically controlled by drug companies.
Zonnic is Reynolds's nicotine gum. It sells for cheaper than other nicotine gums, and comes with the marketing muscle of the company responsible for Camel and Pall Mall. Reynolds has been testing Zonnic for two years in Iowa and Nebraska, and has determined its time to go national.
"They've got some advantages over some of the NRT products that are already out there, said tobacco and health policy consultant, Scott Ballin. "NRT" stands for "Nicotine Replacement Therapy." "And if, in fact, it's demonstrated that people like these products, are using these products, are getting the nicotine they need while cutting down on the smoking or, more importantly, eliminating the smoking, that's something worth taking a chance on."
Ballin thinks there's major room for improvement in the market, where nicotine gum products are only about 6.5% effective when it comes to getting people to quit smoking, long-term.
"It's not very good. People don't like them," he said. "And if these products can be improved, I think the consumer is going to be better served. It's often said that you can make a great product, but if no consumer wants to use it, it's a worthless product."
The U.S. the NRT market makes up about 40 percent of global annual sales. But that still pales in comparison to the $700 billion tobacco market. Despite the numbers, the trend is toward product diversification.
"It would make sense for anyone in this to start looking at expanding their portfolio, realizing that smokers, the majority, want to quit smoking, and they're looking for alternatives."
Reynolds says its product and approach address many of the primary barriers that adult smokers have expressed as a reasons not to use a NRT to help them quit smoking. From a company spokesman: "Zonnic is sold primarily in convenience/gas outlets, where most adult smokers purchase their tobacco products. Additionally, Zonnic is priced on a per-unit basis comparable to that of a pack of cigarettes."