Dissolvable tobacco a concern for health experts

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Monday, October 3, 2011 | Katie Gibas | Categories:
If it looks like candy, smells like candy and tastes like candy, you might say it is candy. That's the whole idea behind some new smokeless, spitless tobacco products. Our Katie Gibas tells us what has health experts and anti-smoking advocates so concerned about this dissolvable tobacco. UNITED STATES -- With more and more places banning smoking, it's becoming tougher and tougher for smokers. That's one of the reasons tobacco companies are experimenting with smokeless, spitless dissolvable products, like snus, orbs, sticks and strips. "One of the tag lines I think was that it's easily used 'anytime, anywhere' and so it's part of that is targeted towards adults who are current tobacco users but can't use tobacco products in their workplace because of tobacco free policies," said Chris Owens, the St. Joseph's Tobacco Cessation Center Coordinator. But cancer experts believe the fun shapes, flavors and subtle nature of the product when it's being used were created for a much different reason: To recoup some losses from the dramatic reduction in adult smokers. "The main purpose I think of the tobacco companies is hook kids on nicotine, gradually increase the content of the nicotine products that they use and eventually, they will begin to smoke," said Dr. Leslie Kohman, the Medical Director of the Upstate Cancer Center. "They're getting young individuals hooked before they're mature enough to make the decision whether to use tobacco or not because they're marketed with the same kind of labels as candy products," said Owens. When we went to find out how accessible these products were to kids, we found Snus at every smoke shop and gas station we went to. But we weren't able to find any of the tobacco products that look like candy. Still, some vendors we spoke with say there has been an increased demand for them. But regardless of what these products might look or taste like, doctors say they're still dangerous. "Mouth cancer. Esophagus cancer. Stomach cancer. Bladder cancer. Even tooth decay and gum disease and a number of other health conditions. And they are a gateway to tobacco smoking," said Kohman. A federal law has given the FDA new authority over tobacco products, but so far, experts say little has been done. Anti-smoking advocates say they would like to see more regulation of these products, including changing the labeling so they don't look as appealing to children. In response to this story, we received a statement from Reynolds American Services, the company that produces the Camel dissolvable tobacco products. David Howard, the Sr. Director of Communications for Reynolds American Services said: "Our Camel dissolvable tobacco products are not currently sold in New York. The products are in lead markets of Denver, Colo. and Charlotte, NC. It is a guiding principle and belief at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company that youth should not use tobacco products. Our Camel dissolvable tobacco products are made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers. The products are regulated by the FDA, they are sold on the same shelves as other smokeless tobacco products (behind the counter, requiring a clerks assistance to purchase), their sale is age-restricted, the packaging is child resistant by federal government standards, and they are taxed at the same rate at smokeless tobacco products. Additionally, federally-mandated health warnings appear on 30 percent of the front and back of the package. According to the most recent report by the federal government, every state in the country is exceeding goals to reduce illegal tobacco sales to minors, a trend that most certainly should continue. The report shows that retailers in New York are at a 94 percent compliance rate. Currently in New York, it is not illegal for youth to possess tobacco products. R.J. Reynolds would support passage of such a law, and strong enforcement."
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