Smokeless Tobacco Snus can be Marketed as Less Risky Than Cigarettes: FDA

Smokeless Tobacco Snus can be Marketed as Less Risky Than Cigarettes: FDA

U.S. health groups are slamming the Food and Drug Administration's decision to permit the General brand of the smokeless tobacco product snus to claim that it poses a "lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis" than cigarettes.

It's the first time the FDA has allowed product marketing of this type, and means that eight Swedish Match USA Inc. snus products sold under the General brand name will be able to make that claim, CNN reported.

The FDA said it's decision to allow what's called a modified risk claim was based on scientific evidence submitted by the company.

"The Lung Association is disappointed with FDA's announcement today," said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy at the American Lung Association, CNN reported.

"The FDA seems to fundamentally not understand that their consumer and top priority is the public health -- not the tobacco industry," Sward said.

In May, the American Lung Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other health advocacy groups urged the FDA to rule against the modified risk claim, CNN reported.

Evidence was lacking on whether the marketing of General snus with a modified risk claim would increase the risk that tobacco non-users, particularly children, would start using tobacco, the groups said.

"Although there are obvious distinctions between e-cigarettes like JUUL and smokeless tobacco products like General snus, the fact that another kind of highly-addictive 'reduced risk' product is proving so appealing to young people, in part because it can be used discreetly, should cause FDA to closely scrutinize the potential impact of modified risk claims for General snus on youth initiation," the groups said in a letter to the FDA, CNN reported.

The groups also expressed concern that adult smokers who try snus wouldn't quit cigarettes, but would instead use snus in addition to cigarettes.

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