May. 4 2006
Washington, DC — The recent announcements by R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris that they plan to test-market new, smokeless tobacco products gives greater urgency to legislation pending before Congress to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration effective authority over all tobacco products. Absent FDA authority over tobacco products, the tobacco companies are free to market their new smokeless products in ways that encourage kids to start using tobacco and discourage smokers from quitting tobacco entirely. Philip Morris will begin test-marketing its new Taboka product in Indianapolis in July, while R.J. Reynolds will begin test-marketing its Camel Snus product in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon before June 30.
It’s no coincidence that these products are being introduced at the same time that a growing number of states are enacting proven measures to prevent kids from smoking and motivate smokers to quit, such as tobacco tax increases, smoke-free workplace and public places, and tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Smokers concerned about their health should not be diverted by these new products and should instead utilize the FDA-approved medications, telephone quitlines and counseling services that are scientifically proven to help them quit.
In addition, no government agency currently has the authority to regulate the process by which these or other tobacco products are made, the toxic and addictive substances they contain, or the addition of candy and fruit flavorings that appeal to children. The tobacco companies are also free to make unproven health claims that some tobacco products are safer than others, as several companies have done with regard to certain cigarette brands and as UST Inc. has sought to do with its smokeless products. Historically, the bottom line of these efforts has not been to reduce smoking or other tobacco use, but to generate millions of new tobacco users and more profit for the companies.
The tobacco companies will be free to continue these harmful actions until Congress approves the pending legislation (S. 666 and H.R. 1376) to grant the FDA authority over tobacco products. Among other things, this legislation would grant the FDA the authority to crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, require changes in tobacco products to make them less harmful and less addictive, and stop tobacco companies from making unsubstantiated claims that some tobacco products may be safer than others. Until Congress acts, consumers will continue to be human guinea pigs in the tobacco industry’s deadly science experiment as they test products aimed at addicting new customers and keeping the ones they already have.