FDA to Review Dissolvable Tobacco Product Overdose Risk

A panel of experts is weighing the benefits and risks of dissolvable tobacco products, which some say are a form of tobacco candy that could put children at risk. 

Last week, the FDA’s Tobacco Products Advisory Committee (TPSAC) met for three days to review materials and hear witness testimony over the pros and cons of flavored dissolvable tobacco products.

The committee will review the data and create a report and recommendations for the FDA by its March meeting.

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Dissolvable tobacco products include pills, tabs and strips that are flavored and placed in the mouth to dissolve, releasing tobacco over time.

Proponents of the products say they help people who want to quit smoking, but the FDA does not allow them to be advertised as stop smoking aids. Critics of the products say they are too close to candy and could be a gateway to smoking for children.

The products are sold in colorful packages and a variety of flavors. Teens and children can easily hide the small packages and consume them in school or at home without others being aware of it, and could become addicted to nicotine without ever having picked up a cigarette, critics say. They also point out that the dissolvable tobacco products are the second highest cause of nicotine poisoning among children, after cigarettes.

Nicotine poisoning can cause vomiting, nausea, muscle problems, paralysis, heart palpitations, seizures or death. It only takes about one milligram of nicotine to cause mild poisoning in a small child, but some of the products have as much as 3.1 milligrams.

Current dissolvable tobacco products on the market include Camel Sticks, Camel Strips and Camel Orbs by R.J. Reynolds and Ariva an Stonewall by Star Scientific; both of whom gave industry presentations during the three-day meeting.

The committee looked at the use of the products, cases of accidental poisoning, youth perception, marketing practices, and the physical and behavioral effects of the products as well. The final report and recommendations are due on March 23.

The FDA has said it will not issue a final determination on the products until it has received the advisory committees reports. While the FDA is not required to heed the recommendations of its advisory committees, the findings often have a significant impact on the agency’s final decisions.

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