Dissolvable Tobacco Has Greatly Reduced Risks: TPSAC

Report says products could help decrease numbers of smokers through cessation, prevention

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) scientific advisory panel, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), released a report yesterday that found exclusive use of dissolvable tobacco products "would greatly reduce risk" compared with regular use of cigarettes, said the Winston-Salem Journal.

The TPSAC report, dated March 1, was posted online ahead of a Friday deadline mandated under the law giving the FDA authority to regulate the industry (click here to view the full report).

It represents the latest FDA update toward the goal of determining whether smokeless tobacco products can be marketed as less harmful, or reduced risk, compared with cigarettes.

Tobacco manufacturers, particularly R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., are putting more emphasis on smokeless tobacco sales as consumer demand for cigarettes declines, said the newspaper.

The committee said dissolvable products could provide a societal benefit in reducing disease from tobacco use by decreasing the number of smokers through either cessation or preventing the first use of cigarettes.

But the committee also cautioned increased use of dissolvable products could lead to more smokers by serving as a bridge to cigarettes and/or reducing societal concern about the potential health risks of tobacco products in general. As a result, the committee said it could not provide a definitive recommendation "since experience is limited and observational evidence on how dissolvable tobacco products might affect use of tobacco products is lacking."

The committee claimed that dissolvable tobacco products "were neither well liked nor being widely used by themselves for smoking cessation."

Part of that lack of acceptance, according to the committee, may come from "people having a perception of the risks of dissolvable tobacco products that is exaggerated." Some anti-tobacco groups claim the risks are the same as smoking a cigarette.

Some anti-smoking advocates say that smokeless tobacco can serve as a gateway for youths to smoking, the paper said. Others are encouraging the FDA to allow the advertising of smokeless tobacco as less harmful than cigarettes if such claims can be proved through research.

Because of the limited scope of dissolvable products to date, the committee said that "the context set by all aspects of industry marketing and regulation will be critical in determining the impact of dissolvable tobacco products."

The committee recommended more testing of current and future products to resolve these issues, as well as address how accessible the dissolvable products are to teens.