Thursday 20 May 2021

The Truth Initiative versus the truth

America's lavishly funded (by unwitting smokers) Truth Initiative is not happy about nicotine pouches. The pouches are smokeless nicotine products similar to snus which contain no tobacco, but the Truth Initiative doesn't think manufacturers should describe them as such even though it is, well, the truth.

Increasingly popular oral nicotine products are frequently marketed as tobacco-free alternatives to smoking, claims that could imply lower-risk and are not authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, according to a recent Truth Initiative analysis of direct mail advertisements. 
They are tobacco-free alternatives to smoking and they are clearly lower-risk, so what is the problem here? 
Does the FDA say that products cannot be described as tobacco-free? I doubt it otherwise the Troof Initiative would have gone straight to them with a complaint rather than writing a crummy study about it.

The Truth Initiative study, which was published in Tobacco Control and is one of the first to examine marketing claims used to promote oral nicotine products to U.S. consumers, found that the majority of mailed ads for oral nicotine pouches or lozenges claimed that they did not contain tobacco leaf (55%) and that they were an alternative to other tobacco products (69%). Most advertisements (84%) also featured claims that the product could be used anywhere.

Again, this is a statement of the obvious. They don't contain tobacco leaf, they are an alternative to other tobacco products and they can be used anywhere. 
So what is the problem?

Oral nicotine pouches and lozenges are a new category of tobacco product that includes brands such as Zyn, On! and Velo and come in many flavors. They are similar to snus – a type of smokeless tobacco pouch that does not produce saliva, making it spit-less – but, unlike snus, they do not contain leaf tobacco. 

Woah! Now you're saying it! Careful now. 

The products are still derived from tobacco and contain nicotine, which is harmful to young people in any form, but due to the absence of tobacco leaf, the FDA does not classify it is a smokeless tobacco product. 

Indeed. It is not a tobacco product.

Some types of oral nicotine products are using synthetic nicotine that isn’t derived from tobacco leaf...

Ooh, awkward. How are you going to wriggle out of that one? 

... raising additional concerns about misleading consumers who may assume that nicotine that doesn’t come from tobacco is somehow safer than tobacco-derived nicotine. 

There's no way to win with you lot, is there?

Until now, there has been little insight into how tobacco companies market oral nicotine products like nicotine pouches or lozenges to consumers, including whether they use claims that could imply reduced harm.

To address the issue, researchers coded a sample of 50 direct-mail ads for the claims that oral nicotine products were an alternative to other tobacco products, could be used anywhere, were spit- or smoke-free, or that the product did not contain tobacco leaf.

... terms like “tobacco-free” in oral nicotine marketing could suggest products are healthier and lower risk to consumers. 
This is a strange thing for an anti-tobacco organisation to say. Tobacco-free pouches may be slightly healthier than snus, which is itself extremely low risk, but they are definitely healthier than any smoked tobacco product. Regulation means that the manufacturers can't say that, even though it's true, so they don't. What people might infer is irrelevant.
Using language that signals a tobacco product is “free of a substance” may meet one criteria of an unauthorized modified risk claim under FDA rules.
It may or it may not. Somehow I suspect it may not.

Researchers found that direct-mail advertising positioned oral nicotine products as alternatives to existing tobacco products, including traditional smokeless products, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes.

They obviously are alternatives to existing tobacco products. What has the Truth Initiative got against the truth?

About half (52%) of the direct mail pieces included claims that oral nicotine was “spit-free,” appearing to position oral nicotine products as an alternative to traditional smokeless products. 

They are and it is.

About one-third (31%) described the product as “smoke-free,” implying that it is an alternative to cigarettes. 

Which it is. 

Many ads contrasted oral nicotine pouches and lozenges to e-cigarettes, urging consumers to “forget about the chargers,” for example, potentially promoting oral nicotine as a product to use in combination with existing tobacco products or as a substitute for other tobacco products.

That is exactly what they're doing. They are substitutes. 

The availability of increasingly popular oral nicotine products in flavors coupled with evidence of marketing the products as alternatives to existing tobacco products calls for greater attention and regulation from the FDA.

Quite right too. Who knows what other factual information might reach the public if the FDA doesn't act firmly?

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