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May 27th, 2009
11:17 AM ET

Critics Blast “Tobacco Lollipops”

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN's Carol Costello reports on new smokeless tobacco products that critics say are geared toward children."]

From CNN's Bob Ruff

Cigarettes and Washington have never been a good mix.

For decades the federal government has battled with the tobacco industry. The government says cigarettes kill people and “Big Tobacco” says smoking is a matter of choice.

Today cigarette advertising remains banned from radio and television.

Those warning labels on the sides of cigarette packages have gotten stronger over the years. And the Surgeon General says that smoking “causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body.”

Even the tobacco industry has finally agreed that there can be health risks to smoking. R.J. Reynolds Vice President Tommy Payne told CNN’s Carol Costello Tuesday that “when you’re inhaling the smoke, that is the primary cause for the chronic diseases associated with the 400,000 premature deaths, whether it be lung cancer (or) emphysema...”

So has Big Tobacco thrown in the towel? Hardly.

A new product from R.J. Reynolds is being test marketed in Portland, Oregon; Indianapolis and Columbus. It’s called "Camel Strips," a small pellet of finely milled tobacco that dissolves in the mouth. It puts nicotine directly into the body, but there’s no smoke as in traditional cigarettes. Later in the year the company will test market in those same three cities two other dissolvable products: the "Camel Stick," which is about the size of a toothpick, and "Camel Strips," which resemble those breath strips that are so popular with consumers.

“They don’t have second-hand smoke,” says Payne. “They don’t have a litter problem....and when compared to smoking and the impact that it has on our society, these products at least should be made available for those who can’t or won’t quit.”

Enter Washington.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) aren’t buying any of this. They’ve introduced legislation that would allow the FDA to control how dissolvables are marketed and put warning labels on them.

The American Cancer Society is equally concerned about the new products. “It looks very innocent,” says the American Cancer Society’s Dan Smith, “and you think what can be wrong with this, but in fact...these products actually contain as much if not more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes.” Smith is also concerned that the cool, cell phone-like packaging of dissolvables makes them a gateway drug for teenagers. “You’re getting them addicted to nicotine which then leads them to possibly wanting to do other things (like) cigarettes.”

Payne says it’s smoke that’s the real health problem here and not nicotine. And he says the new products are intended for adults and not children or teens.

Congress is expected to vote on the Merkley-Brown bill later in the year.

Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lorraine

    I quit smoking to please an ex boyfriend. That's when the gut pain, bloody mucus filled diarrhea, low grade fever and other such symptoms started. Going back to smoking helped it a little, but the pain never totally went away and the pain progressed to the point I would pass out from it, it was so severe. Today, 15 years later, I know of many like myself that quit smoking, only to have their previously symptom free Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis flare.

    I've lost over a foot of my small bowel. I have to know where a bathroom is at all times and that meant giving up places I used to go that didn't have one. I am mainly homebound and get out to the rest of the world via my computer. I see a pain doctor every month to get the pain meds I need to be able to have some quality of life. With each passing year my tolerance to the meds increases. I'm up to 200 mg a day of methadone, the painkiller we found to work the best for me. I'm only 51 years old, the future doesn't look all that good to me. Before I quit smoking, I was rarely home except to sleep. I was very active.

    I have a full set of dentures, so gum is out of the question and a Crohn's related skin disease prevents me from being able to use 'the patch'. Finally it looks like a product is on the market that would really help me when I am away from home where I'm not allowed to smoke. It would be just my luck to have these politicians stick their noses where they don't belong and keep such a wonderful product off the market and away from those like me who could really use it.

    The smokers have been punished enough year after year. Why take away from us a product that would in the long run help keep 2nd hand smoke away from your breathing space among other things? The save the children excuse got old years ago and not many are buying into that anymore. It's time to get off the bandwagon and really think about this.

    Why keep something away from smokers that would have more benefits than not? What is the real reason you are against this product? Are you sure you aren't just saying 'no' out of habit to anything smoking related? Think about all I've said, then ask yourself again if this product should be allowed to be sold countrywide. If the answer is yes, then please stand together with the smokers and help us. Write to these politicians and tell them it's time to stop the punishment and give smokers something that will help them to enjoy life almost as much as they used to when smoking was allowed everywhere.

    May 28, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  2. Tom in Raleigh

    Kathryn: When you get heart and lung disease from your smoking, will you promise not to spend any tax dollars on your treatment? Do you pledge that your health insurance premiums will be taxable? Do you promise not to be part of my health insurance plan? I am no health guy–I eat too many cheeseburgers–but I can say that my money still subsidizes your habit. Given your independence, please do what you want, just don't use any public services. Thanks.

    May 28, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  3. Shawn

    This is a travesty. How is this different from the other smokeless tobacco – chewing tobacco? These users also have a very high incidence of cancer. Especially horribly disfiguring mouth and throat cancer.

    The tobacco companies have a sinister and greedy history of manipulating the amount of nicotine and other ingredients in their products to hook consumers early. Trying to build a new market base by "cool" product forms is the height of corporate irresponsibility and arrogance.

    Additional it's been proven these companies knew their products caused cancers and other life threatening harm when used as correctly. Plus, in addition to the above new form of nicotine I've seen ads for candy flavored cigarettes Now tell me these products are not being marketed to children.

    My mother died at age 58 from throat cancer. I sat and watched her smoke a cigarette right before I drove her to the hospital. I never heard my mother speak again.

    Nicotine is possibly the most additive substance on earth. Addition is like being under water. You need to breathe so badly but you know if you do you'll likely die, but finally you can't help yourself. I know, I spent 20 years on and off trying to quit, 9 of them after watching cigarette caused cancer kill my mother.

    May 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  4. Relohinco

    Targeting children ??? I guess I did not catch the Camel Snus add with the Saturday morning cartoons. I use it and think it ranks right with sliced bread.

    May 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  5. Sage

    I agree !

    May 27, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  6. Kathryn

    This is rediculous. i'm a smoker, and i refuse to quit practically on principle alone. i can't smoke in bars, resteraunts, parks (CA), in some states homes and cars. so what is the problem in offering me a way to have my nicotine that does not bother others in the general public. from my understanding it IS the smoke that offends correct? and if you're so worried about your kids smoking, be a better parent and monitor them and look for the signs. i didn't start smoking until i was legally 18 years old, and as a 23 year old, i'm tired of the government telling me what to do with my body. no one should live to be over 70 any way, it's socially irresponsible; like being obese or have 7 kids. peace

    May 27, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  7. casey

    How is this product any different than nicorette?? Why is this "marketed towards children" but GUM ISNT???? I think this is a great solution for a smoking alternative. If it helps cut down smoke in bars, and restaurants, I am all for it.

    May 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm |