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Smokeless tobacco ad campaign ignites furor

RALEIGH, N.C. - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is targeting people who resolve to quit smoking in the new year with advertisements suggesting they switch to its smokeless tobacco pouches, a move critics say is an attempt to keep people from quitting nicotine.

The ads mark the company's first campaign aimed at getting smokers to switch to the pouches known as Snus, which Reynolds introduced in early 2009, spokesman David Howard said Wednesday.

The carefully worded ads suggest, but don't say directly, that the pouches are a way to help kick the smoking habit. Under federal law, companies cannot claim that tobacco products work as smoking cessation products.

The No. 2 U.S. cigarette maker is advertising in major magazines this month its suggestion for a "2011 Smoke-Free Resolution" in some ads that show the tobacco-filled white pouches dropping from the sky like confetti. The ads promote the company's Camel Snus - small pouches filled with tobacco that users stick between the cheek and gum.

At this time, Howard said, some people "will be considering the option to maybe quit smoking, but not necessarily quit enjoying tobacco pleasure."

An anti-tobacco campaigner said the Reynolds ads aim to reorient smokers to smokeless Snus to keep them from being lost as potential customers.

"These ads are trying to take advantage of the fact that around the first of every year many people try to quit smoking altogether. These ads aren't designed to help people quit, they're designed to keep people using tobacco," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates tobacco advertising, is reviewing the Reynolds ad campaign.

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