Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GlaxoSmithKline to Market Nicotine Mini-Lozenges in Cherry and Mint Flavors; Is This Also a Ploy to Lure Kids?

Last week, I revealed that the Food and Drug Administration expressed concerns about dissolvable tobacco products, arguing that these products are small and candy-like with added flavors, and therefore may be appealing to children and adolescents. The FDA is considering whether to ban these products. In addition, anti-smoking researchers warned that R.J. Reynolds is trying to lure kids to use these products by adding candy flavorings.

As I wrote: "In a commentary in Pediatrics, Dr. Laurence R. Deyton, director of the newly formed Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Marisa L. Cruz, also from the center, wrote about the “unique concerns” of dissolvable tobacco. ... "The candy-like appearance, added flavors, and easily concealable size of many of these products may be particularly appealing to children and adolescents," they wrote."

Yesterday, GlaxoSmithKline announced that it was going to take candy-like nicotine delivery products to a new level by marketing a new mini-lozenge which is smaller than lozenges currently on the market and dissolves three times faster. These lozenges come in a variety of flavors, including cherry (marketed as having a "refreshing" cherry flavor) and mint.

According to an article in Drug Store News: "GlaxoSmithKline announced Tuesday the launch of its new Nicorette Mini Lozenge, a smaller smoking-cessation lozenge that dissolves three times faster than stop-smoking lozenges currently on the market. The lozenges will be lined-priced with existing smoking-cessation products and will be sold at U.S. retail healthcare centers as three small vials, each containing 27 lozenges. The new mini lozenge is expected to drive incremental growth to the category, suggested Roger Scarlett-Smith, in an interview with Drug Store News, because the smaller lozenge size actually satisfies different usage scenarios. “It’s an opportunity for people to use it in a more situational way,” Scarlett-Smith said. For example, the small vials can be discreetly carried in a pocket for the person “on the go.”"

The Rest of the Story

The only thing missing from this story is the FDA's commentary in Pediatrics about how this product may appeal to children and adolescents.

The only thing missing is an FDA advisory committee to study whether the product may appeal to kids and to decide whether or not to pull the product off the market.

The only thing missing is an article by anti-smoking researchers warning that these small lozenges are easy to conceal and may therefore be appealing to kids, who can easily hide them in school.

The only thing missing is an article by anti-smoking researchers warning that these products represent a poisoning threat to children, who will observe there parents popping these candy-flavored lozenges and who may unintentionally leave them around the house, posing a risk of severe nicotine poisoning for young children.

The only thing missing is an article by anti-smoking researchers claiming that GlaxoSmithKline is trying to lure kids into using its candy-like nicotine lozenges in order to get them addicted to its products.

Why are these things missing? Quite simply, because the tobacco control movement is no longer science-based. It is guided more by ideology than science. And that ideology, combined with a heavy dose of money (or consultants) from pharmaceutical companies, works to protect Big Pharma profits, even when it comes at the expense of protection of the public's health. That ideology, combined with the financial influence of Big Pharma money, leads to a non-science based, inconsistent position with regard to nicotine-containing products.

To be clear, I am not arguing that Glaxo is marketing nicotine lozenges to kids or that kids are going to start popping these lozenges as a new fad that is going to spread like wildfire throughout the country. I am not arguing that the product should be taken off the market to prevent accidental poisoning of young children. However, I am pointing out that the exact same reasoning being used by the FDA and anti-smoking groups to condemn Camel orbs and electronic cigarettes would also lead to the condemnation of GlaxoSmithKline for marketing this new mini-lozenge product, in its appealing cherry and mint flavors.

The rest of the story is that the FDA, in its actions to date under its newly-found authority to regulate tobacco products, has been terribly inconsistent. Its actions have been guided more by ideology and a healthy dose of biased speculation than by science and evidence. The same is true of the anti-smoking groups and researchers who have completely lost sight of the fact that kids are not smoking candy-flavored orbs or electronic cigarettes; they're smoking the real ones.

The combination of ideology and pharmaceutical company influence has become blinding, to the point that it is obscuring the evidence and science base for tobacco control policy.

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