Mar. 22 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – As required by the 2009 law granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has issued a report about the impact of dissolvable tobacco products on the public health.
The report appropriately raises concerns that these products could increase overall tobacco use if they entice new users, including children, to start using tobacco or if they discourage current smokers from quitting. The report finds that these products have been marketed as an accessory to cigarettes and a way to get a nicotine fix in the growing number of places where smoking is not allowed. Such marketing could discourage smokers from quitting and truly protecting their health. The report also found no evidence that these products help smokers quit.
The committee’s report raises important concerns that the FDA must take into account as it determines how to regulate dissolvable tobacco products and as it reviews potential applications from tobacco companies to make “modified risk” claims that a tobacco product is less harmful. Before allowing such claims, the 2009 law requires the FDA to determine, based on the scientific evidence, that the product will benefit the health of the population as a whole and not just individual users. The FDA must consider whether any reduction in harm to an individual tobacco user may be offset by encouraging non-users, including kids, to start using tobacco or discouraging current tobacco users from quitting.
This is an appropriately rigorous, science-based standard given the tobacco industry’s long history of deception about its products. The FDA must prevent a repeat of the decades-long fraud in which tobacco companies marketed light and low-tar cigarettes as safer despite knowing that they were just as harmful as regular cigarettes. This deception discouraged smokers from quitting and encouraged others to start, with devastating results for public health. It is critical that whatever action the FDA takes on dissolvable tobacco products be based on science, advance overall public health and not enable the tobacco industry to addict new users.