A while back we took a look at the new delivery systems being ginned up by the tobacco industry to, in part, counteract declining sales and circumvent restrictions placed on cigarettes. Our Rob Kuznia looked at small cigars and roll-your-owns, as well as more esoteric entries from the past like snuff.
One of the companies featured in that article, Reynolds American, told its investors Monday that the company would begin test marketing a new product — dissolvable tobacco, sometimes known as "hard snuff." It's not a brand-new concept. Star Scientific — "a technology-oriented tobacco company with a toxin reduction mission" — has been selling its Ariva and Stonewall dissolvable products for a while and is suing Reynolds for patent infringement to boot.
The advantages of the product, Star says, are that it's odor-free, mess-free-, spit free and smoke-free — although it's still a product that if used properly can result in a horrible death. You can't have everything, after all.
Reynolds' new products come in three shapes — orbs, strips and sticks — and several flavors. Predictably, organizations that don't share in the joy of self-poisoning, like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, see something more dire afoot:
"These types of products pose two serious problems. First, like other smokeless products, they discourage smokers from quitting by feeding their nicotine addiction in places where they cannot smoke. Second, these products appeal to children because of their candy-like form and minty taste and because they are easy to conceal."
Aimed at youngsters? Surely you jest. Still, new research from Cindy Tworek at West Virginia University suggests there may be something to that with these new "spitless" tobacco products. Tworek is specifically studying snus, which is essentially chewing tobacco in a handy-dandy teabag that you can suck on.
"Given West Virginia's high smoking rates, plus the fact that West Virginia has the highest rate of spit tobacco in the country among adult men, it makes sense that Morgantown became a test market for Camel Snus," she was quoted in a release. "Packaging, colors and advertising have potential to appeal to a younger audience, including product pamphlets on where you can use Camel Snus. The ‘spitless' nature of the product would also seem more attractive to women vs. other more traditional forms of smokeless tobacco, like chew or snuff."
And, nicotine levels are higher in the snus currently being test marketed by Reynolds under its Camel brand. "With nicotine levels this high, these products are going to be highly addicting. The public needs this awareness, especially to remind them that there's no tobacco product that can be used without significant potential health risks," Bruce Adkins of West Virginia's Division of Tobacco Prevention said in the same release.
Reynolds insists the dissolvable product is aimed at an adult audience — one that's found snus wanting. Reynolds Senior Vice President of Growth and Innovation Brice O'Brien, in an Associated Press story about Monday's investors' call, said he wasn't sure if the product would be as commercially groundbreaking as menthol or filtered
cigarettes, but adult smokers in focus groups preferred it to snus.