R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is ramping up marketing for dissolvable tobacco products in Colorado and North Carolina test markets, meanwhile the FDA is still reviewing whether and how it can control the new substances.
In a February 2010 letter to the president of R.J. Reynolds, the FDA requested detailed information regarding research conducted that relates to the "risk of accidental nicotine toxicity through the use of dissolvable tobacco products, reports of accidental ingestion of dissolvable tobacco products, and the physiologic effects of swallowing or chewing the products, or otherwise not using the products as described in product labeling, advertising and promotional materials."
The FDA has announced that its own report on the products will not be issued until March 2012.
According to tobaccoproducts.org, "the dissolvable products -- a pellet (Camel Orbs), a twisted stick the size of a toothpick (Camel Sticks), and a film strip for the tongue (Camel Strips), are made from finely ground flavored tobacco. The products melt in the mouth within three to 30 minutes."
"I've heard about these products for a while now, and we expect to have them in stock this year," said Jamie Shepard, manager at Tobacco Road Outlet, in Rockingham.
Colorado Department of Public Health has already begun meeting over concerns that these products might be too attractive to younger consumers due to taste, packaging and reduced costs.
Camel Sticks, Orbs and Strips sell for about $2.50 per 12 pack, compared with $5 for a pack of cigarettes, and are packaged in brightly colored tins.
"Those who keep referring to these products as 'candy' or 'mints' are irresponsibly perpetuating false and misleading information," said Richard Smith, an R.J. Reynolds spokesman.
Until the FDA issues a report on the newest products, no one can be sure what kind of health risk they pose or how attractive they may be to younger consumers.
"No known existing tobacco product is safe, and a market order issued by the FDA for these products should never be interpreted as such," said Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
"These products will not be safer, but we are required by law to not allow even more dangerous products to cause further harm to those Americans who use tobacco products," Deyton said.
Camel Snus, a smokeless spitless tobacco product, has found success in the market in the past few years.
"The Snus sells well," said Shepard. "It's $2.89 per package."
Shepard said many of her customers are smokers who rely on products like this when they're in smoke-free environments.
While critics of such products argue that they still pose a health risk, studies show the risks are lower than with traditional cigarette usage.
-- Staff writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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