Senate bill takes aim at ‘tobacco candy’
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – They’re the newest smoke-free tobacco products – dissolvable pellets or strips that don’t require users to chew or even spit. Sold in shiny plastic cases, the products melt in your mouth like breath mints.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is test-marketing dissolvable products in three cities and says they are designed for adults.
Some lawmakers disagree. They call the products tobacco candy and say they are designed with one thing in mind: to get kids hooked on nicotine. They want to give the government power to restrict sales.
“Tobacco candies are clearly designed to appeal to children through both packaging and taste,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. “This is not a safe product. This is not safe tobacco. It is a product that, like cigarettes, causes cancer and kills.”
Merkley and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have co-sponsored a provision in the Senate tobacco bill requiring the government to study health effects of dissolvable tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration would be given authority to restrict how the products are marketed and sold.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on legislation giving the FDA sweeping controls over cigarettes and other tobacco products. The bill would give the agency power to regulate the content of tobacco products, order the removal of hazardous ingredients, restrict the marketing and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, clamp down on sales to young people and require stronger warning labels.
A spokesman for North Carolina-based R.J. Reynolds accused Merkley and other lawmakers of intentionally distorting the nature of the dissolvable products, which are being test-marketed in Portland, Ore., Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.
“It’s not tobacco candy. That terminology is their terminology,” said David Howard, a Reynolds spokesman. “These are tobacco products. They are made from finely milled tobacco. All the packaging says dissolvable tobacco, they are sold side-by-side with other tobacco products and their sale is age-restricted.”
Howard said smoke-free products eliminate the problem of second-hand smoke – and dissolvable products go one step further.
“There’s no spitting and there is no litter. They literally dissolve” in a user’s mouth, he said. “We believe this is a positive. And we’ll see what adult consumers think.”