New dissolvable tobacco products discussed at FDA hearing

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This week, ACSH s Jody Manley and Dr. Gilbert Ross sat in on the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee s (TPSAC) preliminary hearing on the safety of dissolvable tobacco products such as RJ Reynold s Camel Orbs lozenges and Altria s dissolvable tobacco sticks. While these products were pioneered by Star Scientific s Arriva and Stonewall about ten years ago, Star applied for FDA approval of their lozenges as reduced risk tobacco products earlier this year. However, the FDA does not currently have regulatory authority over dissolvable tobacco products. Ultimately, the TPSAC, an FDA advisory committee, will compile and evaluate data to advise the FDA on how to formulate a regulatory framework for these products. Dr. Ross is optimistic that these products, which are able to deliver a fairly potent nicotine hit without the carcinogens of tobacco smoke, will play an important role in tobacco harm reduction.

Coinciding with the TPSAC dissolvable tobacco products meeting was a Los Angeles Times article on the same topic. In Thursday s L.A. Times, reporter Shari Roan investigates the issue by citing experts from both sides of the tobacco harm reduction debate. While anti-tobacco advocate Matthew Meyers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is concerned that these products mild taste, flavoring, and lack of a substantial smell will appeal to children, Dr. Ross counters that Mr. Meyers fears are insubstantial. These products, which contain significant concentrations of nicotine, says Dr. Ross, are not at all mild and would be difficult for anyone to perceive as candy. Myers is against dissolvable tobacco and all forms of tobacco harm reduction because they contain the word 'tobacco.'

A similar understanding of the issue was communicated by ACSH friend Dr. Brad Rodu. Dr. Rodu, who is professor of medicine and chairman of tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, as well as author of our forthcoming tobacco harm reduction publication, was cited in the LA Times as stating that the lower health risks of dissolvable tobacco, compared to cigarettes, should be seen as a positive development. One cannot call any tobacco product absolutely safe, he noted, But the health risks of using smokeless tobacco products over the long term are so low that they are barely measurable by modern epidemiological evidence. He also pointed out the ineffectiveness of FDA-approved smoking cessation aids, adding that, given that 45 million Americans smoke, If we had almost any other activity in society that was this dangerous, we would welcome products that were safer.