The Food and Drug Administration classified eight smokeless tobacco products as having “modified risk” on Tuesday, and the move may have implications for vaping.
The FDA granted this designation to eight General Snus products, pouches filled with a tobacco powder meant to be placed in the mouth, from Swedish Match U.S.A. The snus will be able to carry the claim, “Using General Snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.”
The FDA outlined how General Snus achieved this designation. The company conducted long-term studies of consumers who used only snus and who used only cigarettes. That data was given to the FDA with its modified risk application.
Swedish Match also submitted studies showing that consumers could understand the modified warning and different risks of General Snus along with studies showing that consumers understand that the lower risk is from using only General Snus, not snus combined with other tobacco products. The FDA highlighted that this study showed consumers were likely to switch from traditional cigarettes to these lower-risk products.
General Snus will still be subjected to marketing and advertising restrictions, including that the company take steps to ensure ads are seen only by adults and avoid targeting teens.
The modified risk pathway was outlined in 2009, according to the FDA, but these are the first products that have this designation.
Now that the FDA and General Snus have set the precedent for this modified risk pathway, it’s possible that this is the route vaping companies could take. Many have marketed their products as alternatives to cigarettes, often implying that vaping will improve people’s lives without mentioning specific health benefits.
The FDA has also clamped down on vapes being marketed as a way to quit smoking cigarettes. In September testimony before Congress, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said no companies had applied to be approved as a smoking cessation device, another tobacco-specific FDA pathway.
The health effects of vaping are being researched, but some studies suggest that the practice has lower health risks compared to cigarette smoking. The recent outbreak of vaping-related lung illness, however, proves that the research on vaping devices is still not finished.