The Dangers of Tobacco Candy

Mr. Merkley:

I first want to thank Senator
Dodd for his tireless advocacy on this issue. 
The need to regulate tobacco products has been evident for years, and
for years it has been impossible to accomplish this goal.  It is frankly unbelievable that while we
heavily regulate the production and sale of aspirin, a product that is as
addictive and destructive as tobacco goes without regulation. 

bill will go a long way in helping to keep these addictive products out of the
hands of our children. This bill gives the FDA the legal authority it needs to reduce
youth smoking by preventing tobacco advertising targeting children. It also
provides the FDA with the authority to prevent the sale of tobacco products to
minors, as well as the authority to prevent the tobacco industry from
misleading the public about the dangers of smoking.

this bill takes important and much needed steps in providing for the regulation
of smokeless tobacco.

We are all familiar
with the dangers posed by cigarettes – the health effects have long been
documented – both on users and bystanders. 
We are also familiar with the steps being taken in many cities and
states to rid our public areas of second-hand smoke. 

These actions,
thankfully, have been very successful and have lead to a major dilemma for
tobacco companies – if smoking becomes socially unacceptable, how can they
continue to replace the hundreds of thousands of smokers who die every year?

Their response has been
to bet heavily on smokeless tobacco products.

Chewing tobacco has
been around for awhile, but has its own limitations when it comes to social
acceptability – after all, there aren’t many places outside of this chamber
where you can still find a spittoon.  So
the tobacco companies are looking for hip, new smokeless tobacco products that
don’t require spitting and can appeal to a new generation of kids. 

This picture was taken
just a few blocks from the Capitol. 
new product called “Snus” that RJ Reynolds is selling nationwide.  It’s a flavored, pouched tobacco product that
is advertised as not requiring spitting.

As you can see, it’s
advertised next to displays of candy and mints. 
Its container is not unlike that for mints.  And I should note that this container was not
the original design.  As reported by the
Portland Oregonian last December,
originally Snus came in circular containers more similar to chewing
tobacco.  But when teachers at schools
noticed these tell-tale containers in students’ pockets, RJ Reynolds redesigned
them to look more like cell phones. 

Clearly, these
marketing efforts are aimed at young people. 
But it gets worse.

Now RJ Reynolds has
come out with another product that they are test-marketing in three cities
across the country, including Portland, Oregon: 
tobacco candy. 

Tobacco candy comes in
another one of these classic cell phone shaped containers.  [INDICATE CHART TWO]  They pop open kind of like a pez dispenser
and then you get individual candies that come in two flavors – “mellow,” which
tastes like caramel, or “fresh,” which tastes like mint.  You suck on them for about 20 minutes and
they just dissolve, like a Tic-Tac or other candy.  But this candy is made out of finely ground

Both the packaging and
the product clearly look like mints or candies. 
In fact, just a few days ago, my wife ran across a sample pack I had a
home and almost ate one before realizing they weren’t mints.

They are fun, they are
easy to hide from parents and teachers, and they are very, very dangerous.

The Indiana Poison
Control has estimated that each tobacco candy delivers 60-300 percent the
nicotine of a cigarette.  These candies
are addictive and they cause cancer.

And unless we pass this
bill and give the FDA authority to regulate, soon this tobacco candy will be
coming to a convenience store near you.   And we’ll see more displays like the one shown
in this photo taken in Portland – tobacco candy advertised right next to ice

And once they’ve
mastered the technique of turning tobacco into kid-friendly candy, there is no
end to the variety of products the industry could turn out.  Already, RJR is preparing to launch two new
forms, “Sticks” which are like toothpicks that you suck on and “Strips” that
are nearly identical to those breath mint strips that dissolve on your

Everywhere I go and
talk about these products, Mr./Madame President, people are outraged.  Meanwhile, the tobacco industry and its
champions are trying to justify these flavored products with the kid-friendly
marketing as “safer” alternatives to smoking. 
Mr./Madame President – this simply isn’t so.  And this rhetoric poses a real danger to consumers
who might think smokeless tobacco is harmless when it so clearly is not.

In fact, the Surgeon
General has determined that the use of smokeless tobacco can lead to oral
cancer, gum disease and the increased risk of heart attacks.  There is also a risk of cancer of the
esophagus and stomach. 

This is not a safer
tobacco – it is a product that, like cigarettes, when used as directed causes
cancer and kills.

Further, it is not a
method of helping smokers quit smoking. 
The purpose of smokeless tobacco is to allow individuals to continue
their addiction to nicotine – or start a new addiction.  The idea that the tobacco companies would
actually want to help people quit using their product is laughable, but that’s
the argument that is made by too many tobacco proponents.

Unlike Nicorette or the
patch, smokeless tobacco doesn’t help you quit – the doses don’t get any lower
over time.  As the U.S. Public Health
Service Clinical Practice Guideline noted, “The use of smokeless tobacco products
is not a safe alternative to smoking, nor is there evidence to suggest that it
is effective in helping smokers quit.”

It is no secret that
these products are dangerous.  Back in
2003, Surgeon General Richard Carmona talked about what he called the “public
health myth” that smokeless tobacco is a good alternative to smoking.  He emphatically said that that simply was not
true.  It’s worth quoting him at length:

·“I cannot conclude that the use of any
tobacco product is a safer alternative to smoking. This message is especially
important to communicate to young people, who may perceive smokeless tobacco as
a safe form of tobacco use.   Smokeless
tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.  Smokeless tobacco does cause cancer.”

That statement comes
from a 2003 House hearing on tobacco harm reduction.  And I ask unanimous consent that his entire
prepared testimony from that hearing be entered into the record.

It is a travesty that
RJ Reynolds can launch an addictive, carcinogenic candy targeted at children
with no review from the FDA.  Nicorette –
designed to help you quit smoking – had to go to the FDA for approval.  But caramel tobacco candy – designed to hook
kids on tobacco – is on the shelves in Portland right now with zero oversight.

This bill will finally
bring some transparency and common sense to the regulation of tobacco. Finally,
the FDA will be able to address the single greatest public health menace in
this country.  I’m pleased that the bill
includes an amendment that Senator Brown and I authored to require the Tobacco
Advisory Committee to expedite review of tobacco candy.  I look forward to passing this bill, and keeping
tobacco candies from store shelves before the industry succeeds in hooking a
new generation.