Since the beginning of this year, Indianapolis has been a test market for new dissolvable tobacco products, mostly from Camel. These are smokeless, spit-free, made from finely milled tobacco, and held together by food-grade binders. They look like breath mints, breath strips, or toothpicks, and are designed to be placed in the mouth, on the tongue or between the cheek and gum, where they dissolve to release tobacco.
Dissolvable tobacco products are now available in Daviess County in the form of Stonewall dissolvable tablets. The manufacturer, Star Scientific, states that Stonewalls are designed for heavy smokers and spit tobacco users. This company also makes Ariva brand dissolvable tablets.
Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation agency feels the tobacco companies are illegally using Hoosiers as unwitting participants in a potentially dangerous clinical trial of these products since they were not tested for safety before being sold to the public, as food products, drugs, and cosmetics would be.
Dissolvable tobacco products may contain up to three times the amount of nicotine found in one cigarette. A cigarette smoker typically takes in about 1 milligram of nicotine. Camel dissolvable products are said to deliver about 0.6 to 3.1 milligrams of nicotine each, Ariva tablets have about 1.5 millgrams of nicotine each, and Stonewall tablets have about 4 milligrams of nicotine each.
People who use these products may get a higher dose of nicotine than they are used to, possibly resulting in nicotine poisoning, which manifests through adverse reactions such as tremors, nausea, vomiting, agitation, and in more extreme cases, seizures, coma, and death. The high nicotine content combined with the nature of the products and the ease of use is a potentially deadly combination for both adults and children. For example, users may be tempted to ingest multiple tablets at one time, like they would breath mints.
Less than a milligram of nicotine is enough to kill a child, depending on age and weight. Indiana Poison Control has already received calls regarding nicotine poisoning associated with dissolvable tobacco use.
Dissolvable tobacco is not a safe alternate to cigarettes, even though tobacco companies are marketing them as a safer alternative with fewer toxins. People who use spit tobacco are at risk of many health problems including cancers and mouth diseases, and we have no reason to believe dissolvable products are any safer.
Collaboration between ITPC and Dr. Jeffery Wigand, a former tobacco company researcher who achieved national prominence when he became the tobacco industry’s highest ranking former executive to address public health and smoking issues, has resulted in a preliminary CDC study of Camel Orbs dissolvable products.
The study found two questionable ingredients in Orbs: cinnamaldehyde, a toxic insecticide, fungicide, corrosion inhibitor, and severe skin irritant; and coumarin, which the FDA banned as a food additive in 1978 and as a cigarette additive in 1997. Since this was only a preliminary study, we don’t know what other chemicals and toxins may be present in Camel, Stonewall, or Ariva dissolvable tobacco products.
In a presentation to ITPC representatives recently, Dr. Wigand said the tobacco companies are doing clinical testing on people without their consent by selling dissolvable tobacco products that have not undergone safety testing. He said that formulas of Camel dissolvable products vary by test market; the Camel dissolvable products being sold in Indianapolis and surrounding counties have the highest levels of nicotine.
I’d like to ask each of you to take action by writing to the attorney general and the FDA. Ask them to remove dissolvable products from our stores and test them for safety.
Write to the attorney general at Consumer Protection Division, 302 West Washington Street, 5th Floor, Indianapolis, IN 46204 or call 317-232-6330.
Submit comments online to the FDA through www.regulations.gov or by mail to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.