New Generation of Tobacco Products Threatens Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives in U.S., Report Warns

Congress Urged to Grant FDA Authority Over Tobacco Products

Feb. 20 2008

Washington, D.C. — An insidious new generation of tobacco products is threatening efforts to reduce tobacco use in the United States, warns a new report issued today by a coalition of public health organizations.

The report describes how tobacco manufacturers take advantage of the lack of government regulation to design and market products that recruit new youth users, create and sustain addiction to nicotine, and discourage current users from quitting. Responding to declining smoking rates and growing restrictions on smoking, tobacco manufacturers are finding novel ways to entice new users, especially children, and discourage quitting.

To stop the tobacco industry's harmful practices and protect public health, leading public health organizations urge Congress to pass pending legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate tobacco products and their marketing.

The report, "Big Tobacco's Guinea Pigs: How an Unregulated Industry Experiments on America's Kids and Consumers," was issued by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, with funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The full report and a slideshow of new tobacco products can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org/productsreport.

The report details key trends including:

  • Flavored products: Cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and cigars have been introduced in an array of candy, fruit and alcohol flavors. R.J. Reynolds' Camel cigarettes, for example, have come in more than a dozen flavors, including lime, coconut and pineapple, toffee, and mint. Flavorings mask the harshness of the products and make them appealing to children.
  • Novel smokeless products: New smokeless tobacco products have been marketed as ways to help smokers sustain their addiction in the growing number of places where they cannot smoke. In addition to traditional chewing and spit tobacco, smokeless tobacco now comes in teabag-like pouches and even in dissolvable, candy-like tablets.
  • Targeted products and marketing: New products and marketing have been aimed at women, girls and other populations. The most recent example is R.J. Reynolds' Camel No. 9 cigarettes, a pink-hued version that one newspaper dubbed "Barbie Camel" because of marketing that appealed to girls.
  • Unproven health claims: A growing list of products have been marketed with unproven and misleading claims that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Claims have included "All of the taste… Less of the toxin" (Brown & Williamson's Advance cigarettes) and "Reduced carcinogens. Premium taste" (Vector Tobacco's Omni Cigarettes).
  • Undisclosed product designs: The report also illustrates how tobacco manufacturers control nicotine delivery to maximize addiction, while using flavorings and other additives to make their products taste milder, easier to inhale and more attractive to children and first-time smokers. A few aspects of product design not disclosed to consumers include the use of :
    • Ammonia to increase the speed and efficiency of nicotine absorption.
    • Eugenol and menthol to numb the throat to minimize irritation from smoke.
    • Glycerin and cocoa to enable deep lung exposure (cocoa produces carcinogens when burned).
    • Sugars and chocolate to make smoke milder and make cigarettes more appealing, especially to children and first time smokers.
    • Filter technology and ventilation holes that allows deep penetration of nicotine into the lungs of the smoker and increase the addictiveness of the product.

The report makes it clear that tobacco products are "highly engineered nicotine delivery devices, finely tuned to appeal to the taste, feel, smell and other sensations of new and addicted smokers."

"It is mind-boggling that tobacco products are the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, yet they are virtually unregulated to protect public health," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Until Congress grants the FDA authority over tobacco products, America's kids and consumers will remain guinea pigs in the tobacco industry's never-ending experiments to sell more of its deadly and addictive products."

Tobacco companies have introduced an even broader array of products internationally that could appear on the U.S. market. New products recently launched by Philip Morris International include Marlboro Mix 9, a high-tar, high-nicotine product sold in Indonesia, and Marlboro Intense, a short but strong version of the brand that is being tested in Turkey and lets smokers get a quick nicotine hit when stepping outside smoke-free environments.

Bipartisan legislation pending before Congress (S. 625/H.R. 1108) would give the FDA authority to:

  • Restrict tobacco advertising and promotions, especially to children.
  • Ban candy-flavored cigarettes.
  • Require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, changes to their products and research about the health effects of their products.
  • Require changes in tobacco products, such as the removal or reduction of harmful ingredients.
  • Prohibit health claims about so-called "reduced risk" products that are not scientifically proven or that would discourage current tobacco users from quitting or encourage new users to start.
  • Require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products.
  • Prohibit terms such as "low-tar," "light" and "mild" that have misled consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer than others.

The Senate bill, sponsored by U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John Cornyn (R-TX), has 56 sponsors and co-sponsors, while the House bill, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA), has 215 sponsors and co-sponsors. The legislation is also supported by more than 560 public health, faith and other organizations across the country. A poll conducted in 2007 found that 70 percent of American voters support Congress passing the legislation.

"The tobacco industry has repeatedly marketed its deadly, addictive products to children as part of a broad strategy to hook the next generation of customers by portraying smoking as glamorous, cool and alluring. That is the reason why every day 4,000 new kids try their first cigarette," said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). "Congress must act now to reduce suffering and death from tobacco-related disease and free our youth from the firm grasp of the rogue tobacco industry."

"The bottom line is that tobacco companies continue to put our children at greater risk for heart disease and stroke with shady marketing and product design. Wishful thinking won't change that, but the FDA regulation of tobacco products will," said M. Cass Wheeler, CEO of the American Heart Association.

"Congress has an unprecedented opportunity in 2008 to pass this life-saving legislation that will finally give FDA the authority to crack down on the tobacco companies and their new deadly products," said Bernadette A. Toomey, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. "Now is the time for them to act to protect kids and prevent them from a lifetime of addiction and disease at the hands of these shameful new products."

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation nearly $100 billion in health care bills each year. About 90 percent of adult smokers begin in their teens or earlier. Every day, another 1,000 kids become regular, daily smokers, and one-third of them will die prematurely as a result.

 

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