It was expected to see a slow fall in cigarette sales during covid-19 after numerous reports indicated there was a correlation between critically ill covid patients and heavy smokers – but this wasn’t the case. In fact, a clear increase was witnessed not only in the sales of cigarettes but within the smokeless sector too. Evidently, the global prevalence of nicotine dependance is not easily wavered; whether it’s during the health hazard revelation of cigarettes in the 60’s, national recessions or world-spread pandemics – nicotine is seemingly here to stay. Could this be why an increasing number of smokeless products are being reviewed (some are already authorized) to be marketed as modified risk products? We don’t know, but the nicotine trend appears to be undergoing a change.
Authorized, Not Approved – The FDA Permits Marketing of Selected Smokeless Products
Smokeless products come in various forms; some containing tobacco and some none, some are inhaled, others are dissolved, chewed, or sucked. Many of these types have been sent to the FDA for reviewal and many are rejected, often due to their flavoring. However, on the October 12 th , 2021, the FDA announced its first-ever authorization for an electronic nicotine delivery system (VUSE by RJ Reynolds Vapor Company) to be advertised hoping they will “appropriately serve for the protection of public health”.
This authorization does not, however, mean that the products are FDA approved or safe, but is an indication that due to their nature they are unlikely to attract youths and might instead help adults kick their smoking habits. This brand of e-cigarettes is not the only type of smokeless product that has undergone FDA reviewal over the years, some other types include:
- Snus smokeless tobacco – specifically a brand called General Snus by Swedish Match USA, Inc. where 8 products may be advertised as lower risk than cigarettes thanks to an authorization granted by the FDA back in 2019 .
- Chewable nicotine discs – on the 19 th of October, 2021, a brand called Verve Discs by US Smokeless Tobacco Company LLC was granted permission to advertise as modified risk products after previously having been discontinued and will be sold in various stores in the US.
- Nicotine pouches – the brand On! from Altria is now being reviewed by the FDA as possible “modified risk product”. The decision is yet to be made, but the manufacturer believes On! will serve as important for public health and many of their products have been available in online stores for quite some time. Although pouches are fairly new in the US, they come from a long line of culturally significant smokeless products from Sweden, namely snus.
Besides from these, over a million products have been rejected by the FDA for several reasons, but mostly because of their possible appeal to younger people and underage users. This is something that the FDA will further ensure through “..stringent marketing restrictions [that] will help prevent youth exposure,” said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s center for tobacco products.
Large Retailers Replace Shelves of Traditional Tobacco Products With Leaf-Free
FDA’s recent authorization for modified risk products is not the only indication that the nicotine market is changing. The general message seems to be that instead of hoping users will quit nicotine, it is more likely they will switch to healthier options, if such options exist. A quick glance through shelves of the retail market tells a similar story. Nicotine users who have, throughout history, been able to find their daily driver of tobacco at their local tobacconist shop, gas station or supermarket are more frequently finding that these are removed. Many big wholesale corporations like Costco began removing tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, already a few years ago and are slowly replacing them with leaf-free alternatives. Although this removal is primarily a business decision, it is also reportedly done to target the problematic prevalence rate of smoking in the US, something that the CEO of CVS Health says “…is the right thing for us to do… to help people on the path of public health”.