Monday, November 28, 2011

Chew/snus alternatives free from scrutiny given to e-cigarettes

The FDA has gone after e-cigarettes because it decided that the claims that e-cigarettes were safer than smoking were unproven and that the products were actually unapproved drug delivery systems designed for smoking cessation. Arguments that e-cigarettes are actually safer alternatives to smoking (rather than a treatment) have fallen on deaf ears.

Ironically, another "alternative" to tobacco - tobacco and nicotine-free chew/snus products - have seemingly been free to make similar claims about their products without any clinical trials or FDA scrutiny. Compare the claims made on the web site for a product called "Nip the Grip":
  • Is NiP really safe? Yes. NiP the ENERGY DIP is made with natural sea sponge that is infused with Vitamin B-12, Caffeine, and natural flavorings which are all FDA approved ingredients.
  • NiP is a safe and healthy, natural alternative to smokeless tobacco. It has been specially developed for times of nicotine cravings and your need for increased mental and physical focus.
  • NiP is a unique, safe alternative to smokeless tobacco. NiP is designed to help people break away from the powerful grip of nicotine addiction.
  • Nip is safe, healthy and a great way to cope with the intense physical cravings of nicotine while achieving more ENERGY and enjoying the same oral gratification as a dip of tobacco.
And this is just one product's claims. I found several chew/snus alternatives including Absolut Snus (coffee based), Jake's Mint Chew (mint leaf-based in mint, cinnamon, licorice or cherry flavors), Chattahoochee Herbal Snuff (made with soy and glycerin in wintergreen, cherry, mint, whiskey, tobacco and "spitfire" flavors), and Root 100 (ginseng-based in candy and fruit flavors such as apple, cinnamon, peppermint and tangerine) all making similar claims on their web sites.

So, where is the FDA questioning the safety and efficacy of these products claiming to help you beat your nicotine addiction? Why is it legal for some of them to simply put the standard disclaimer
"These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease," (others don't even bother with the disclaimer) when that is clearly what they state the product is for on their web sites? Where is the demand for clinical trials and peer-reviewed research?

Where are the public health groups questioning the long-term effects of having these products in your mouth? Why are they not objecting to the fact that these products "look like" tobacco products and counter their denormalization campaign against tobacco? Why are the ANTZ not claiming that these fruit and candy flavors are encouraging kids to pretend to chew and that they may be a gateway to using "real" chew? How about the fact that it's sold right along side chewing tobacco in convenience stores?

Now, obviously I don't think any of those things should happen - anymore than they should for e-cigarettes. I don't want to see any alternative taken away from people who want it. It's the double standard that bothers me. 

According to this CNN report on mint snuff, dentists endorse and even hand out the tobacco-free products:

(Note the deceptive and misleading statement made by the reporter at the end. She continues the myth that nicotine and addiction is the greatest health risk by stating, "If you think dipping snuff is better than smoking, you're wrong. Chewing tobacco is highly addictive and exposes the body to levels of nicotine equal to those of cigarettes.")

And there it is: the nicotine. These other products are virtually identical in purpose to e-cigarettes, but they do not contain the nicotine. Which begs another question - then why the objection to nicotine-free e-cigarettes? They just "look like" smoking as these products "look like" chewing tobacco. And what about the addictive qualities of the caffeine in some of these chew replacements?

That is what it really comes down to - the vilification of nicotine and the belief that any "addiction" - no matter how low health risks - is the true evil.
 It's truly not about health - it's about social acceptance. 


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