Harm Reduction: The Voice of Reason

Sen.Ted Kennedy has introduced his FDA tobacco bill (S. 982) and scheduled a Senate HELP Committee mark-up session on the bill beginning Tuesday, May 12. It’s very interesting to me that the following article was written for publication this month for C-Store Decisions. I urge you if you believe that Harm Reduction should be advanced in this legislation that you call, fax or email the members of the committee and let them know that the Voice of Reason needs to be included. I’m sure you may sense a bit of sarcasm in this writing but I do believe that the Voice of Reason needs to be heard! What are your thoughts? Do you think the the Committee will make the changes? What are your concerns? Or will they just not listen?

Harm Reduction: The Voice of Reason

My passion for the reduction of harm of tobacco products over the past few years has greatly increased. I have met many folks that have the same passion to develop products that provide great promise to those who choose to use tobacco but with less harm than the traditional cigarette. Great strides have been made within the last year to introduce many new products that would, from my perspective, reduce harm. I must say though I would have never thought that the quest for harm reduction would be besieged with so much controversy and ignorance.

A year ago I wrote an article about the possibility of “tobacco actually being safer one day”. Isn’t it possible that things change or are many sticking to old, outdated paradigms when it comes to the mere reference of the word tobacco? In response to this referenced article, I have had the opportunity to experience many new exciting products. The first would be a smokeless cigarette called, “Aeros”. I must say that when I received this package from its inventor Richard Horian I was absolutely amazed at its ability to deliver satisfaction. In my mind, the absence of smoke and all of the “nasty’s” would seem to imply a reduction in harm.

In my quest over the last year to help retailers properly market to consumers that are looking for options when they either can’t light up or are looking for an alternative I also found a product called, Smoke Scents. I have had many late night conversations with a now good friend, Maurice Goulet, about the marvels of aroma therapy. Another new friend is Stuart Garrett who interestingly enough has reintroduced Nicotine Water (homeopathic). From all of my research smokers tell me it taste just like water and satisfies.

I’m sure you’ve all been called on by David Dean or one of his team from Star Tobacco regarding a new segment in the tobacco offering called dissolvable, featuring Arriva & Stonewall that make the evil nitrosamines disappear. And last year at the NACS conference Reynolds introduced the Camel dissolvable tobacco line. And in case you haven’t noticed the little pouch called Snus is quickly becoming a household name through the efforts of many but specifically Reynolds. I have even seen a Snus that is made out of apple rinds and I’m told it tastes good!

There are many like Brad Rodu, Carl Phillips & Bill Godshall that champion moist smokeless tobacco as a leading product in the relative harm reduction offer. There are those in the industry that advocate that moist smokeless tobacco is 99% safer than lighting up. But yet, we are lead to believe by the labeling on the can that there is no difference. Oh and by the way, there are those that say nicotine is just like caffeine, but we never hear that on the news. And now we have a senator from NJ that seemingly is more interested in protecting nicotine delivery through traditional cigarettes or through nicotine products made by his financially supporting pharmaceutical buddies.

From my perspective, the debate over electronic cigarettes is an interesting one. The debate centers on old school thinking versus new school thinking as the anti-tobacco folks just don’t have the ability to think rationally. If this product or any other product shows promise in the quest to reduce harm, would it not be in the best interest of those who use tobacco products to allow for advancement. Or must we live in a world where folks are not rational and act like the “kid who decides to go home with the football because things aren’t going his way?”

Unfortunately, the voice of reason is being muffled by folks who are being misled by a group with an agenda. Whether that agenda is driven by politics, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma or by irrational “zero tolerance” zealots, people deserve to know the truth. There are many entrepreneurs, small companies and large companies that are either developing or supporting these new innovations that are the voice of reason! Can you imagine, that “our elected officials” through their support of the Waxman FDA tobacco regulation have doomed smokers by not listening to those that are the voice of reason? Pretty disturbing wouldn’t you say?

11 comments ↓

#1 jancascade on 05.09.09 at 8:50 PM

Too many derive too much money from the anti tobacco agenda. Government is more addicted to tobacco tax revenue than they will admit and will do anything to ban a product that threatens their revenue stream.

It has been polically correct to be an anti tobacco politician. If they accomplished nothing in their position, all they had to do was a press release stating thier anti tobacco position to be seen as doing something to get re-elected.

#2 Bill Godshall on 05.10.09 at 2:25 PM

Excellent commentary Lou, although I would have left out (in the next to last paragraph) “as the anti-tobacco folks just don’t have the ability to think rationally.”

There are more supporters of tobacco harm reduction within the public health community than most folks realize. But many of them have remained silent because they don’t want to get fired, lose funding from, or otherwise piss off harm reduction opponents who have advocated/adopted/implemented abstinence-only policies at NCI, CDC, US SG, CTFK, ACS, AHA, ALA, ADA State Health Departments, etc. since 1986 when Congress enacted the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Education Act (which made opposition to tobacco harm reduction the official policy of federal health agencies, which in turn became official policies of state/local health agencies and many health/medical organizations.

Its not easy to change longstanding policies of government agencies and large organizations (and corresponding attitudes of longtime officials and bureaucrats at government agencies and organizations).

The public health community has become increasingly divided about tobacco harm reduction (which represents huge progress for tobacco harm reduciton in the past few years).

Basically, the leading opponents of tobacco harm reduction are those who favor policies to prevent nontobacco users from becoming tobacco users over policies to help smokers reduce their health risks.

As one who spearheaded many policy campaigns to reduce tobacco use among youth and tobacco marketing to youth during the 1990’s (before RWJF created CTFK with tens of millions of dollars to promote itself as the official voice of anti tobacco in the US), I’ve been very disappointed that CTFK’s Matt Myers and several others have spearheaded and perpetuated the campaign against harm reduction products and policies simply because they’re worried that some youths might begin using the products.

The solution isn’t criticizing all health groups for the actions of a few, but rather continued education and encouraging the exchange of information and discussion of these issues among all interested parties.

#3 TAZ on 05.11.09 at 11:06 AM

Lobbying activity surrounding the bill to grant the US Food and Drug Administration regulatory control over tobacco products, which passed the House in a 298-112 vote on April 2nd and will be taken up by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions HELP Committee this week, was intense in the first quarter of 2009, with Altria, the lone industry player to support the measure, spending $4.29 million on the FDA bill and a couple of other pieces of tobacco legislation, while rivals Reynolds American and Lorillard paid lobbyists $1.59 million and $850,000, respectively, in that period, according to Federal lobbying records. (Washington Post 05/11)

#4 Joe on 05.21.09 at 3:10 AM

Great pointed article! I find it absurd that our government is closing it’s mind to the voice of reason as discussed!

#5 Joe on 05.23.09 at 3:46 AM

Was thinking about all the bs by the anti’s and couldn’t it be said that nicotine relacement products are marketed to kids since they come in candy like flavors and are in gums and lozengeS????? Pretty interesting! Its a wonderful world we live in! More like the voice of stupidity!

#6 Bill Godshall on 05.26.09 at 4:02 PM

Here are two news articles on Senate Democrats falsely accusing Reynolds of target marketing Camel Orbs to minors during last week’s HELP Cmte. markup session.
While the WSJ article is objective, the Dayton Daily News article contains even more false accusations (without any evidence) against Reynolds by harm reduction opponents.

– – –

U.S. senators attack Reynolds’ alternative
They propose amendment to FDA tobacco bill to ban dissolvable smokeless products

By Richard Craver
Winston-Salem Journal
May 26, 2009
http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2009/may/26/us-senators-attack-reynolds-alternative/business/

Two U.S. senators are aiming to snuff out dissolvable smokeless-tobacco products before they can get a toehold in the U.S. market.

Their amendment to the proposed FDA regulation bill from Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is stoking the debate regarding the viability and possible less-hazardous role of smokeless tobacco products.

U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, have labeled as “tobacco candy” the three dissolvable products being test marketed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The senators say that the dissolvable products are aimed at getting youths hooked on tobacco and nicotine. They said that some of the products are sold in containers “designed to resemble cell phones.”

“There is no doubt that smokeless tobacco products are aimed squarely at children,” Brown said. “We have a responsibility to protect children from suggestive marketing and dangerous products.”

Reynolds counters that the products — a pellet (Camel Orbs), a twisted stick the size of a toothpick (Camel Sticks) and a filmlike strip for the tongue (Camel Strips) — are aimed at adult consumers who want to use a tobacco product in places where they can no longer smoke by federal and state law.

Reynolds is plowing ahead with its smokeless-tobacco initiatives as part of what Susan Ivey, its chairwoman and chief executive, calls its transformation into becoming a “total tobacco company.” The company is considered the industry leader in next-generation smokeless products.

In October, Reynolds introduced the dissolvable products in test markets in Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis and Portland, Ore. The products are made of finely milled tobacco and come in flavor styles called “fresh” and “mellow.” They last from two to three minutes for the strips, 10 to 15 minutes for the orbs and 20 to 30 minutes for the sticks.

The senators’ amendment was approved last week by a 15-8 vote, mostly along party lines, in the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension. Both North Carolina senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, voted against the amendment.

The Kennedy bill is expected to be dealt with in the Senate next week. Like the House version of the bill that was passed in April, it would impose restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco and allow the FDA to regulate the content of cigarettes.

In March, Burr and Hagan introduced an alternative tobacco-regulation bill that has made little progress. Their bill would create a new federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to solely regulate tobacco instead of assigning the task to the FDA.

Burr and Hagan said that the massive recall of tainted peanut products and other problems at the FDA demonstrate that the agency is too “overburdened” to oversee such an important component of North Carolina’s economy as tobacco. Burr has threatened to filibuster the Kennedy bill.

By introducing the amendment, the senators may be providing the means for scientifically proving whether smokeless products are less hazardous than cigarettes.

Such a definitive test in the United States, which would be under the auspices of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory committee, has been requested for years by advocates on both sides of the issue. A report would be presented within two years to the FDA if it is given oversight of the industry.

Julie Edwards, a spokeswoman for Merkley, said that unlike nicotine gum, which is meant to be used for a limited time with decreasing use of nicotine, “tobacco candy is meant to start or continue the addiction and may have even higher doses of nicotine than cigarettes.”

“We are talking about a product that hasn’t been strenuously studied but is assumed to carry many of the same risks as chewing tobacco — including the risk of cancer.”

Both Reynolds officials and some smokeless-tobacco advocates dispute Edwards’ statement on higher doses of nicotine in smokeless products.

Tommy Payne, the executive vice president of public affairs for Reynolds, said that the senators’ amendment is part of an “abstinence-only strategy that only provides three options for smokers — cigarettes, nicotine replacement or quitting cold turkey.”

“Our smokeless products are part of a strategy aimed at harm reduction that is backed by scientists and elements of the antismoking advocacy groups,” Payne said.

“Their intent with the dissolvable study could be beneficial to our efforts if the science reveals what we believe it will.”

Bill Godshall, the executive director of SmokeFree Pennsylvania, said that “many inaccurate and misleading claims were made about the least hazardous tobacco products” by senators and others at the markup session. He is an advocate of switching smokers to smokeless products for health benefits.

He said that efforts to diminish or snuff out the impact of smokeless products would keep those unable or unwilling to quit cigarettes hooked on their habit.

“The amendment’s real intent was to poison and pre-empt passage of, and any objective discussion about, responsible tobacco harm-reduction amendments that can significantly reduce cigarette consumption and save the lives of millions of smokers,” Godshall said.

“By repeatedly referring to Camel Orbs as candy, and by falsely accusing Reynolds of target marketing them to youth — which if true, would be actionable violations of both the Master Settlement Agreement and state minimum-age sales laws — the senators went over-the-top to protect Marlboro’s lethal cigarette empire from harm-reduction market competition by Reynolds’ far less hazardous smoke-free alternatives.”

Richard Craver can be reached at 727-7376 or at rcraver@wsjournal.com.

– – –

Tobacco foes say new product a lure for minors
Maker of Camel Orbs says smokeless, dissolvable tobacco is hardly candy.

By Jessica Wehrman
Dayton Daily News
Sunday, May 24, 2009 9:34 PM
http://www.ohio-share.coxnewsweb.com/News-share/Local_News-share/tobacco-foes-say-new-product-a-lure-for-minors-131462.html

WASHINGTON – Shelly Kiser of the American Lung Association in Ohio was all set to give a presentation on Camel Orbs – a dissolvable tobacco product slightly bigger than an Altoid mint – to the Ohio School Nurses Association. All she needed was a prop.

So Kiser, director of advocacy for her organization and no great fan of Camel Orbs, headed into a Columbus gas station earlier this year and asked for a container of Orbs.

They gave it to her for free.

For smokers long confined to standing outside in crummy weather to get their nicotine fix, Camel Orbs is an alternative that keeps users out of the elements.

For Sen. Sherrod Brown and public health advocates, its yet another diabolical strategy to get kids hooked on smoking.

Brown, D-Ohio, this week successfully added a measure calling for a quick Federal Drug Administration study of Orbs and other dissolvable tobacco products to a larger bill that would, for the first time, put tobacco products under FDA regulatory authority. The bill, with the amendment, passed the committee last week and now awaits full U.S. Senate approval. It passed the House in April.

Brown compares Orbs to candy, and said the fact that the products can be passed off as breath mints is another way to lure kids into becoming tobacco addicts at a young age.

“It is criminal to me that they market to children the way they do,” he said.

But David Howard, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, said the product, like all tobacco products, is legal only for adults over the age of 18. The product is currently not available in the Dayton area.

R.J. Reynolds introduced Orbs in Columbus, Indianapolis and Portland, Ore., earlier this year, and the company said early feedback has been positive. Orbs, he said, “meet the societal expectation of no second-hand smoke, no spitting, and in the case of dissolvables, no litter.”

He said theyre hardly candy. They are made of finely milled tobacco, and designed for adults.

“The bottom line is these are tobacco products,” he said. “They are clearly marked as tobacco products, they are marketed as tobacco products and they carry the same warnings as tobacco products.”

He said similar products – Ariva and Stonewall – have been on the market since earlier this decade with little protest.

Still, he said he welcomes Browns amendment and any study of their product.

Bill Godshall of a group called SmokeFree Pennsylvania counts himself as one of the defenders of Orbs. He compares the products to Nicorette or Commit Lozenges and cites studies indicating they are safer than cigarettes.

“What this comes down to is people fighting for the same market,” he said.

But Brown cites studies indicating a single Orb has between 60 and 300 times the amount of tobacco contained in a single cigarette. And Greg Connolly, a professor of the practice of public health at Harvard University, calls Orb products “nicotine on training wheels.”

R.J. Reynolds, Connolly said, “is just trying to expand the options for nicotine delivery products for the American public.”

Smoking a cigarette for the first time, can be a deeply uncomfortable experience for a teenager, Connolly said. Theres the smoke, for one thing, as well as the coughing and the taste. By turning it into a mint-like product – in mint and cinnamon flavors – theyve made nicotine addiction a more pleasurable experience, he said.

Connolly said Browns amendment would allow the FDA to begin the studies necessary to take Orbs off the market. And unless the FDA starts regulating tobacco, he warns, the tobacco industry will continue to get more sophisticated in how it delivers nicotine. If that doesnt happen, he said, “the tobacco companies own the future.”

Kiser said despite the fact that the products are only legal for adults, school nurses have reported finding packages of Orbs in the trash.

To her, theyre dangerous because they can be consumed in front of parents and teachers without the adults knowing whats going on.

“Unless a parent knows the exact shape of it, they wouldnt suspect anything,” she said.

#7 OTP Kid on 06.16.09 at 12:14 PM

Bill makes the point and confirms everyting I have been saying, albiet he has an agenda whereas I do not. These products will be demonized and not be on the market in the longer term.

#8 Bill Godshall on 06.18.09 at 1:48 PM

My statements have not confirmed everything OTP Kid has been saying.

#9 OTP Kid on 06.18.09 at 2:13 PM

Bill, they have. It’s just the conclusion you are trying to reach is different.

#10 TAZ on 01.11.10 at 11:27 PM

WHAT AN AMAZING TURNABOUT! WASN’T THE STORY I HEARD IN THE PAST!

United States
Responding to the Food and Drug Administration’s call for public and industry comments on the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, Philip Morris USA and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., both subsidiaries of Altria Group Inc., urged the Federal agency to adopt a regulatory plan that would encourage smokers who cannot or do not want to quit to switch to smokeless tobacco products, saying a regulatory framework that takes into consideration the “continuum of risk” of different types of tobacco products could “have a significant public health benefit. (Wall Street Journal – WSJ 01/06)

#11 Bill Godshall on 01.14.10 at 1:42 PM

While PM agreed to the FDA legislative deal with Matt Myers, Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy in 2004 (and PM honored its agreement until the law was signed), PM wisely and admirably chose to urge the FDA to promulgate reasonable and responsible tobacco harm reduction policies during the regulatory process (which is distinctly different than the legislative process).

The comments Altria submitted to the FDA are at:
http://media.gatewaync.com/wsj/pdfs/2010/01/altria_fda-2009-N-0294_harm-reduction.pdf

The Winston-Salem Journal ran two stories on this
http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/jan/11/tobacco-rivals-lobby-smokeless-tobacco/
and a longer version at:
http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/jan/12/rivals-pursue-same-goal/news/

And Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote an excellent piece at:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-oped0110chapmanjan10,0,4362469.column

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