Brown wants candy-like tobacco taken off market

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Brown wants candy-like tobacco taken off market

Columbus Dispatch – WASHINGTON—To the average school nurse, teacher or security officer, they might well pass as innocent packages of breath mints.

That's a big reason "dissolvable tobacco" products such as Camel Orbs are so attractive to youths trying to pull a fast one on adults while still getting a significant hit of nicotine, says Kate King, a school nurse in central Ohio.

"My big concern is we don't see them they are below the radar," said King, president-elect of the Ohio Association of School Nurses. "It's an easy thing. It's a cute package. They are easily concealable."

That attraction to teenagers, as well as potential health dangers to children cited in a study last month, is why Sen. Sherrod Brown wants federal regulators to immediately remove such material from the market.

"Dissolvable tobacco products are being used to hook youth and sustain nicotine addiction," Brown said in an April 21 letter, co-written with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Columbus is one of three test markets for Camel Orbs, which are finely milled tobacco tablets in mint and cinnamon flavors, and similar Camel Sticks and Strips.

The tobacco-regulation legislation enacted last year included a Brown/Merkley amendment requiring the Food and Drug Administration to produce a report within two years on the impact of dissolvable tobacco products, including their use by children.

But a study last month in Pediatrics added urgency. The research concluded that dissolvable tobacco products could result in accidental ingestion and poisoning by young children and are of "concern with their discreet form, candy-like appearance and added flavorings that may be attractive to young children."

Brown and Merkley told Hamburg, "Given the compelling new evidence in this study that these new tobacco products pose an immediate and significant health risk to children, we urge the FDA to take action right away to keep tobacco candy products off store shelves and out of the hands of children."

The lawmakers noted that the agency already has expressed concerns.

In February, Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA's Center of Tobacco Products, wrote R.J. Reynolds, maker of the Camel dissolvable tobacco products, and Star Scientific – which makes similar products called Ariva and Stonewall – asking for thousands of pages of information.

"CTP is concerned that children and adolescents may find dissolvable tobacco products particularly appealing, given the brightly colored packaging, candy-like appearance and easily concealable size of many of these products," Deyton wrote. "We are also concerned about the extent to which the high nicotine content and rapid dissolution of dissolvable tobacco products may facilitate initiation of tobacco use, nicotine dependence and addiction in adolescents, and may serve as a mechanism for inadvertent toxicity in children."

The FDA's findings "will make them want to pull it" from the market, Brown said in an interview Thursday. "I am not going to set expectations that they (the FDA researchers) are going to be done in a month or two or three. But I want to let them know we are watching."

Reynolds and Star Scientific say their dissolvable tobacco products are made for and marketed to adults.

Star says it has manufactured and marketed its Ariva and Stonewall dissolvable tobacco products since 2001, saying that "hardly makes them 'novel' – and in that time we have not encountered one case of nicotine 'poisoning' of a child."

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