Skip to main content

Keeping Watch on the ‘Others’

E-cigarettes may be dominating the news, but other smokeless alternatives should not be ignored

Despite the headlines, forward-thinking category management of other tobacco products (OTP) is not all about electronic cigarettes. Granted, there have been questionable hits and more misses in the alternative tobacco products lineup lately, but there is also strong industry support for looking beyond the traditional cigarettes segment to smokeless alternatives that fall under the growing array of tobacco harm reduction.

Tobacco giant Altria Group Inc. continues to look beyond the traditional cigarettes segment. During the company’s second-quarter and first-half 2013 earnings call, Chairman and CEO Marty Barrington reported that the company expanded distribution of its Verve chewable, disposable nicotine disc to about 1,200 outlets across Virginia in September.

In the snus arena, RJ. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) began selling Camel Snus Frost in a 1-gram pouch nationwide in September. The company said the larger pouch offering 70 percent more tobacco by content than its regular Camel Snus product was introduced in response to consumer demand for a large single-serve version. In its second-quarter earnings report, RJR said Camel Snus has nearly an 80-percent share of the snus market, and it reported the brand is already benefiting from the “fresh seal” packaging it launched in February.

Competition has been increasing in the snus market from Philip Morris USA, Swedish Match and, most recently, from Kretek International Inc., which is now marketing its Swedish snus Thunder Xtreme, Offroad and Oden’s Extreme to U.S. distributors and retailers nationwide. Each of these three snus brands reportedly adheres to Swedish standards for ingredients, preparation, pasteurization and other quality measures.

Kretek International CEO Mark Cassar said snus is expected to be “an active part of the future of tobacco,” and he explained that “a tipping point is coming that will favor snus as a regular choice for many adult tobacco users.”


The news is not so upbeat in the dissolvables realm. Late last year, Star Scientific stopped the production and sales of its dissolvable tobacco products, Ariva and Stonewall, which were sold since 2001. In its U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company said it was motivated by “continued losses and low sales” and that restrictions that prohibit the company from making statements about the comparative health risks of tobacco products have made it “extremely difficult to effectively market” its dissolvable tobacco products.

Then this July, RJR announced it was cutting back on the marketing and sales of its dissolvable tobacco products after more than four and a half years in test markets. According to media reports, Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips will remain in limited distribution at point-of-sale sites in Denver and Charlotte, N.C.

“We’ve found in our conversations with adult tobacco consumers that while there’s strong interest in the category, a different form may present a better option over the long term,” said Richard Smith, spokesman for Reynolds.

John Spangler, a professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said he is not surprised that dissolvables have not spurred demand because he believes “the market for spitless, non-combustible tobacco is probably already taken up by snus.”

Bill Godshall of Smoke Free Pennsylvania also said in media reports that the “test markets weren’t good” for RJR’s products and the company’s use of child-resistant packaging may have been detrimental for sales as the products are “impossible to open without scissors.”


Still, new smokeless alternatives continue to make their way into the marketplace.

Florida-based Pixotine Products Inc. launched Pixotine, “the Original Nicotine Toothpick,” which the company said provides “that nicotine buzz” without the smell of cigarettes and can be used anywhere. The company also maintains that Pixotine does not resemble smoking and offers the “pleasure of a cigarette without the associations, judgments and irritations.”

Utah-based e-Nicotine Technology, meanwhile, has developed an inhaler-type device that delivers a dose of nicotine to a person’s system as he/she tries to quit smoking. The company said the device, which is about the size of a small cellphone, comes with removable cartridges, each of which contains the equivalent of about 10 packs of cigarettes, but administers nicotine to the lungs without other harmful compounds found in cigarettes.

The device monitors nicotine intake by measuring the dosage and frequency of administration, on both the device and an app, with a security lock. Justin Bingham, vice president of marketing and corporate development at e-Nicotine Technology, said the device will lock a user out if it detects that person is using it too often. Even though the device administers enough nicotine, it is “not an appealing product to those who are not already addicted to nicotine,” he noted.

In addition, West Virginia-based oncologist and herbalist Dr. Hassan Amjad said he has developed an herbal tobacco cessation powder called “Smoke-Less,” which when placed on the tongue changes taste perceptions and makes tobacco unpalatable. Amjad said some smokers who used the herbal powder said they felt as if they were “licking a tire.”


Professor Brad Rodu of the University of Louisville is a strong supporter of alternative nicotine delivery systems that, by definition, don’t combust. On his website,, Rodu recently commented on “nicotine safety” in the absence of smoke and referred to a 1997 United Nations roundtable that looked at the social and economic aspects of smoking reduction with the help of alternative nicotine delivery systems.

He noted its still-valid findings: “Nicotine, per se, does not substantively contribute to most of the medical complications of tobacco use,” he said. “Long-term nicotine use is not of demonstrated harm, with the possible exception of use during pregnancy. Scientific research indicates that nicotine is not a carcinogen.”

It is difficult to document the scientific evidence of nicotine’s safety because drug safety is primarily established by the absence of its adverse effects, Rodu added.

Before he was the director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), Mitch Zeller wrote in an article published in 2009 that, “There is potential for an ever-wider range of consumer-acceptable alternatives to the cigarette for smokers who will not otherwise cease their dependence on nicotine.” Rodu said Zeller now acknowledges nicotine’s safety and the potential of tobacco harm reduction.

Recently, in an interview with the National Journal, Zeller maintained that the CTP is getting closer to expanding its regulatory power over all products that meet the definition of a tobacco product. Additionally, the FDA has an opportunity to create a comprehensive nicotine regulatory policy that recognizes that “there’s a continuum of risk” at the individual level and can drive “current cigarette smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit from the most harmful form of nicotine delivery to the least harmful form.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds