May. 24 2002
Washington, DC — A company called QuickTest 5, Inc. has announced plans to sell Nico Water, a bottled water containing highly addictive nicotine, at major national drugstore chains, including CVS, Walgreens and Sav-Mor. The product is being marketed as a means to help smokers quit and as an alternative for smokers in circumstances where smoking is not permitted, although Nico Water has not been tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine its effectiveness and safety. The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids and 19 other public health organizations petitioned the FDA in December, 2001 to assert its authority to keep this product off the market until its safety could be determined by proper independent testing, but the FDA has yet to take any action.
Nicotine has never been approved as an additive to foods. It is addictive, toxic and potentially dangerous. It makes no sense for water containing nicotine to go unregulated, while other commercially available nicotine delivery devices like Nicorette gum or NicoDerm patches are subject to FDA clinical trials and regulation. Use of Nico Water could be dangerous,could discourage smokers from quitting and could easily fall into the hands of children and serve as a gateway to use of tobacco products.
Nico Water illustrates the absurdity of the lack of FDA regulation of tobacco and nicotine delivery devices. The public is vulnerable when anyone can take a highly addictive and toxic substance like nicotine, put it in a bottle of water and sell it to consumers without any independent scientific review or safeguards to protect the public health.
The marketing of Nico Water underscores the urgent need for Congress to grant the FDA full and effective authority to regulate all nicotine-containing products, including cigarettes and other tobacco products. In addition, the FDA should immediately assert jurisdiction over those products that it can regulate under existing law either because they are not conventional tobacco products or because of the health claims being made about them. Because of its failure to grant the FDA the clear authority it needs, Congress bears responsibility for the introduction of these new products and any harm that they cause. Absent FDA regulation, these products in all likelihood will result in more kids becoming addicted to nicotine, will discourage smokers from quitting by feeding their nicotine addiction when they are in places where they can't smoke, and will add to the addiction, disease and death caused by tobacco products. Any manufacturer of these products that is serious about reducing the harm caused by tobacco use should join the fight for meaningful FDA authority and pull its nicotine-delivering products from the market until they have been subjected to the agency's rigorous scientific review process and regulation.