Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Next Big Thing in Tobacco?

Mark Landler and Andrew Martin of the New York Times report that a Swedish smokeless tobacco product called "snus" is about to enter the U.S. market.   Unlike chewing tobacco, snus does not require spitting, making it a way to get a nicotine high without breaching etiquette.  The medical establishment in Sweden seems mixed on the question of snus' healthfulness as compared to other forms of tobacco (the article indicates snus carries less risk of oral and lung cancer than chewing tobacco and cigarettes, but carries an increased risk of pancreatic cancer), but mostly they seem to agree using snus is not a good idea.  Is snus a gateway chew to cigarette smoking?  Will it, along with other purportedly safer tobacco products that seem particularly appealing to younger users, play a role in Congress' debates about whether to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco?   If they state tort lawsuits aren't preempted by federal legislation, it is possible these alternative products will bring the next wave of tobacco litigation.  And if such suits are preempted, can we rely on the FDA to really regulate these products?

From the article:

Still, with the number of American smokers declining every year — there are now about 45 million smokers, or 21 percent of the adult population — American tobacco companies are expanding aggressively into reduced-risk products, notably dip and snus.

R. J. Reynolds is selling snus under the Camel label in eight test markets across the country. Last year, Reynolds American bought Conwood Sales, maker of Grizzly and Kodiak smokeless tobacco, for $3.5 billion.

Philip Morris USA recently introduced Marlboro snus in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and it continues to test another snus product, Toboka, in Indianapolis. It is set to open a $350 million plant, near its headquarters in Richmond, Va., that will focus partly on developing reduced-risk products. Analysts said the Toboka test has been disappointing, and some are skeptical of the prospects for other snus products.


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