Citizens of Denver and Colorado Springs are excited about a public hearing set for Wednesday on the current test marketing in the cities of dissolvable tobacco products, which critics say are packaged to appeal to young people, a charge hotly denied by corporate officials.
It’s the second round of test marketing by the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company of the brightly packaged, flavored line of lozenges, strips, and sticks that deliver nicotine when they dissolve in the mouth. The first tests were done this spring in Indianapolis, Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio.The marketing in Colorado is accompanied by a program in Charlotte, N.C.
The hearing, conducted by the Colorado Board of Health, will be held Aug. 17 at 4300 Cherry Creek Drive, Building A, in Denver, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Dissolvable tobacco has been around since 2001, as The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported this week. A Virginia company called Star Scientific introduced a lozenge called Ariva, followed in 2003 by Stonewall.
By law, the only tobacco products the Food and Drug Administration regulates are cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and roll-your-own.
Star Scientific is readying to release a low-nicotine versions of its two products. Dissolvable tobacco often carries no more nicotine than cigarettes, and sometimes much less.
“It is not just the amount of nicotine but the route of administration and speed of absorption that determine its physiological effects,” Scott Tomar of the University of Florida Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science said recently in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives, published by the National Institutes of Health.
“The goal should be relief from addiction to nicotine, not long-term maintenance,” Norman Edelman, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, told the journal.
In January of 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was enacted, which required FDA to establish a scientific advisory committee to examine the question of dissolvables and their potential use by minors.
Public meetings were held by the committee this July 21 and 22, and others are scheduled in November.
The three Camel Dissolvables being test-marketed by R.J. Reynolds are called Orbs, Strips, and Sticks.
“In my mind there’s no safe level of tobacco,” Dr. Chris Urbina, director of the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post. “I’d be very concerned about children picking these up. These look like small candy or mints.”
Colorado has slashed its budget for management of tobacco products this year to $5.4 million, compared to $25.4 million in 2007, the newspaper reported.
Spokesmen for RJ Reynolds said the products are sold behind checkout counters with age restrictions and ID requirements. They said the packaging is child resistant, and carries the same health warnings as cigarettes do.