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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FDA Denies Label Change for Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco, despite the contention of tobacco companies, is not a safer alternative to cigarettes. Tobacco products that are chewed, dipped, or snorted carry with them the potential for other forms of disease, such as mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss. Despite the aforementioned health problems associated with smokeless tobacco, two subsidiaries of the tobacco industry petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to alter smokeless tobacco warning labels to indicate they are less risky than traditional cigarettes.

This week, the FDA denied the request by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and American Snuff Co. LLC to change the warning label, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. The FDA said it denied the petition “after thoroughly reviewing the available scientific evidence and public comments. The agency determined there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that a change in the warnings would promote greater public understanding of the risks associated with the use of smokeless tobacco products.”

In 2011, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and American Snuff Co. LLC filed what is known as a citizen petition. They requested that the FDA change one of the four warning statements used on a rotating basis, according to the article. After the FDA denied the request the Reynolds subsidiaries said they will “continue to engage in regulatory discussions, in the belief that open lines of communications are the most effective approach to establish a science-based regulatory framework for the tobacco industry.”

If the decision were passed, then labels would have said:

“Warning: No tobacco product is safe, but this product presents substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes.”

Or:

“No tobacco product is safe; however, exclusive use of smokeless tobacco products presents substantially less risk to health than cigarettes.”

When it comes to public safety, there should never be labels that reflect which is the lesser of two evils - especially when the products are manufactured by the same companies. Science has sufficiently proven that all tobacco products carry significant health risks, saying one product is healthier than the other, sends the wrong message to teenagers and young adults.

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