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Worries Surround Camel Snus Smokeless Tobacco

Nov 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

R.J. Reynolds is getting ready for the national debut of Camel Snus, a new type of smokeless chewing tobacco.  According to a report in The New York Times, R.J. Reynolds is hoping Camel Snus catches on with consumers as a more "socially acceptable" form of tobacco.  But health officials are worried about the product's potential to cause health problems.

According to the Associated Press, Snus was invented in Sweden where it has been popular for decades.  However, the European Union banned Snus in 2004 over cancer worries.  Unlike regular chewing tobacco, users can swallow the juice Snus produces, so there is no spitting.  And unlike cigarettes, there is no second hand smoke.  Apparently, those properties are what R.J. Reynolds thinks will make Camel Snus, which is currently being test marketed nationwide, more "socially acceptable."  

But according to The New York Times, the amount of nicotine contained in a pouch - a single dose - of Camel Snus  is higher than is what is found in most other chewing tobaccos.   A spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds told the Times that each pouch of Snus contains 8 milligrams of nicotine.  

There is also concern that R.J. Reynolds is manipulating the nicotine in Snus.  According to The New York Times, an earlier version of the product that was test marketed in the U.S. contained only 2 milligrams per pouch.  The West Virginia University researcher who  made that discovery told the Times that the nicotine increase likely didn't happen by accident.

Although it is unclear how much nicotine in smokeless tobacco reaches brain, more nicotine could make Camel Snus a highly addictive product.  That's why so many health advocates are worried.  While people who use smokeless tobacco don't face a higher risk of diseases like lung cancer, there can be other consequencs.

According to an article published by ReportonBusiness.com, smokeless tobacco products contain 28 carcinogens and raise the risk of oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, mouth lesions and gum disease.  If Snus takes off and proves to be more addictive than other forms of smokeless tobacco, the public health consequences could be enormous.

Cigarette usage is declining in many countries, including the U.S.  According to ReportonBusiness.com, total U.S. sales of cigarettes fell by 40% from 1987 to 2005, while smokeless tobacco sales were essentially unchanged.  Tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds are anxious to regain some of their market share, and they  clearly see smokeless tobacco as an avenue for doing so. 


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