Tobacco company seeks softer warning for chewing alternative

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Those who follow the tobacco debate are familiar with Snus. Most people in Northeast Indiana are not.

The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a two-day meeting beginning April 9 to review a request from the Swedish maker of Snus to certify its pouches of tobacco as less harmful than cigarettes.

Riegel’s Cigar, Pipe and Tobacco of Fort Wayne sells Snus for about $2.50 before tax.  They say a limited number of customers come in for the product.  “We’ve got traditional chewing tobacco where you pack it into your lip. We have snuff, but with both those products you end up having to spit,” John Porter said.  “The difference with Snus is it’s sewn into little cloth bags. You put that in your mouth and apparently you do not have to spit.”

The company that makes S also wants permission to remove one of the required health warning labels relating to oral cancer.

“These products might be safer than cigarettes, they don’t have 7000 chemicals and they don’t have the toxins of second-hand smoke, but that does not mean they are safe products,” said Lindsay Lux of Tobacco Free Indiana.

A 2009 law gave the FDA authority to evaluate tobacco products for their health risks and lets the agency approve ones that could be marketed as safer.

According to Tobacco Free Indiana, most users don’t choose Snus as a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes. They use both.  “Their (tobacco companies) goal is to keep you addicted to nicotine so when the time is right that you can, you still smoke a cigarette, but when you can’t, you use these products that are very discreet.”

The FDA’s review of Snus is expected to take about a year.  Their action is being closely watched by both the public health community and tobacco companies, which are looking for new products to sell as they face declining cigarette demand.  Snus is sold in more than 20,000 stores across the nation.


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