On their quest to protect public health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) are switching gears with their most recent tactic in helping adult smokers. This is done through never-seen-before moves that include permitting selected smokeless alternatives to be marketed as safer options.
Tackling the prevalence rate of smoking among adultsis certainly not a new phenomenon for the FDA,it is a point of issue that has been actively battled for over five decades. Previous efforts to lower smoking rates among adults and sadly, asurprisingly high number of young smokers has not solely involved the riddance of cigarettes, but also all forms of tobacco and recreational nicotine usage in general. The newly implemented strategies, on the other hand, take a different approach that does not entirely exclude nicotine, but rather, focuses on minimizing youth exposure which has been one of the most problematic questionsin former “modified risk” assessments. It seems the agency has come to the realization that while adults do wish to stop smoking, eliminating their nicotine usage entirely is evidently a tougher row to hoe.
So, what do these new tactics entail?
In short, it means analyzing premarket smokeless products to evaluate whether they contain less harmful substances than cigarettes, but above all, it means ensuring these products are in no way appealing to youths.
On October 12th, 2021, the FDA announced a unique authorization of a specific brand of e-cigarettes, VUSE, manufactured by RJ Reynolds Vapor Company, to be marketed as safer alternative to smoking.Mitch Zeller, the director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products said that “Today’s authorizations are an important step” something that is certainly made clear when only a few days later, yetanother product was granted permission.
On October 19th, 2021, the FDA authorizes the second product type that is believed to “..help addicted smokers who use the most harmful combusted products completely switch to a product with potentially fewer harmful chemicals.”This time, the grant includes four oral nicotine products, Verve Discs,from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company.
Besides from these two recent products, another brand was given Modified Risk status back in 2019, a series of products called General snus from Swedish Match. FDA about General snus “..relative to cigarette smoking, exclusive use of these specific smokeless tobacco products poses lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.”
What do all these products have in common?
Upon analysis, the FDA believes the products are “unlikely to attract youths”, despite the inclusion of a few mint varieties that, in the past, has been seen as a “risk flavor”. The clear message here is the importancethat all manufacturers ensuretheir marketing is adult-targeted, along with product design and flavor. Then, and only then, can products even be considered for review as “appropriate for public health” and a possible aid in the question of smoking cessation. Now, that a growingvariety of “smokeless options” have been given the green light by the FDA, will a representative brand from each type of smokeless product be reviewed and perhaps given the same go-ahead? ON! from Altria is certainly a possible candidate, seeing as they are already under review with the FDA and can already be seen in various online stores for nicotine pouches as well as big retailers like Circle K.
Make no mistake, if these authorized products turn into popular underage options, FDA will immediately withdraw their current marketing grants. That said, the atmosphere is seemingly hopeful that through “strict marketing restrictions” these products might just do the job for smokers wishing to throw their cigarette packs away, while remaining “less appealing to the youth.”In any case, these are interesting times in the nicotine industry.