Cautious optimism on TPSAC report
WASHINGTON -- Guarded optimism.
Tobacco companies and their supporters are rarely accustomed to hearing anything positive about their products.
Regulation, litigation, taxation--that's what they're used to. So when a federal report does not reflexively cast aspersions on a new product or emerging segment, there is a bit of a double-take.
And based on the reaction of at least one major player, that's exactly what has occurred.
When the scientific arm of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products issued a report last week that found exclusive use of dissolvable tobacco products "would greatly reduce risk" compared to use of cigarettes (click here for details on the TPSAC report), one might have expected euphoria from the folks at R.J. Reynolds. The company is the largest producer of this segment, fielding a line of Camel Dissolvables, including Camel Orbs, Camel Strips and Camel Sticks.
Instead, when reached for comment Monday, company spokesperson Richard Smith offered the following comment: "We do state, specifically to the report, that it underscores the importance and relevance of the principle that adult tobacco consumers have a right to be fully and accurately informed about the risks of serious diseases, the significant differences in the comparative risks of different tobacco and nicotine-based products, and the benefits of quitting. We believe this information should be based on sound science."
And what about the company that triggered the TPSAC report? Efforts to obtain comment from Star Scientific were not successful. The Glen Allen, Va.-based maker of dissolvable lines, Aviva and Stonewall, states on its home page that its corporate mission is "to reduce the harm associated with tobacco use at every level." Star Scientific did not post a statement concerning the TPSAC report.
Why are the companies most likely to benefit from a positive report not celebrating?
First, the report by the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) does not set policy. It heads to the Center for Tobacco Products, which will ultimately determine the designation of dissolvables. The process, sources say, has a long way to go and some would not be surprised if a final decision on dissolvables isn't rendered until 2013.
Moreover, the TPSAC report, while signaling some hope for a future tobacco set featuring a round of reduced-risk oral tobacco products, was careful to note that despite its findings, there remains a lack of research on the products, and that dissolvables could spur a new market of customers.
Nonetheless, some tobacco advocates were encouraged by the report and the hope of a new class of tobacco products to become part of the traditional display: Tobacco Harm Reduction
"It's encouraging that those who support 'relative harm of tobacco products' have succeeded in presenting their message," Lou Maiellano, president at TAZ Marketing & Consulting Group in Levittown, Pa. "It is my hope that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers as well as users of tobacco products support products that champion the cause--Tobacco Harm Reduction."