After a nearly six-year absence, Reynolds American Inc. has re-entered the dissolvable tobacco-product category with a focus on nicotine lozenges.
The R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. subsidiary has launched initial distribution of Revel through an age-21 verification website — www.thatsrevel.com.
The goal has been making tobacco products more accessible within a society that’s clamping down on smoking.
The lozenges are available in hard and soft textures and in mint, dark mint, crema and berry flavors. There are plans to sell the lozenges at retail “in the coming months,” also with age-21 verification requirements, the company said.
“At Reynolds Vapor, we are keenly focused on responding to the evolving preferences of the adult tobacco consumer and delivering next-generation products responsibly,” said Shay Mustafa, Reynolds Vapor’s senior vice president for modern oral consumer marketing.
Reynolds began testing dissolvable products in early 2009 — a pellet (Camel Orbs); a twisted stick the size of a toothpick (Camel Sticks); and a film strip for the tongue (Camel Strips).
In July 2013, Reynolds acknowledged that after spending more than 4½ years in five test markets, including Charlotte, it had struggled to gain consumer traction for the products. It sold all of the product inventories by the end of 2013.
Reynolds follows rival Altria Group Inc. in ramping up dissolvable tobacco-product marketing.
Altria announced plans for a premarket tobacco application with the Food and Drug Administration for smokeless chewable products — discs, chews, chewable dissolvables and melts — under the Verve brand.
In December 2017, six styles of Reynolds’ Camel Snus entered the FDA’s review process for gaining modified-risk status.
The FDA has received modified-risk applications for substantive review for 18 Camel Snus styles, and the process could take up to a year to complete. The styles are Frost, Frost Large, Mellow, Mint, Robust and Winterchill.
If any one of the applications is approved by the FDA, Reynolds would be able to market the snus styles as posing less risk for smokers who stop smoking and use the products in place of cigarettes.
Reynolds parent company British American Tobacco Plc offers the Lyft and Epok nicotine pouch products in five European countries under its “modern oral” category. Options include products containing lower levels of tobacco, and one that contains nicotine but no tobacco.
“In a fast-moving world that continuously calls for improvement and variety, the demand for innovative oral products continues to grow,” BAT said in a report released March 15.
“Responding to consumer demand, BAT developed a line of products with different flavors and nicotine levels.
“Unlike Swedish-style snus, which has traditionally appealed more to men, Epok and Lyft are more likely to appeal to men and women equally, which will increase their potential to contribute to tobacco harm reduction.”
Limiting youth access
The age-21 requirement comes after the Big 3 U.S. tobacco manufacturers — ITG Brands LLC, Philip Morris USA and Reynolds — signaled support in November for an expected Food and Drug Administration recommendation to Congress to raise the minimum purchasing and usage age from 18 to 21.
Reynolds said Nov. 3 it supports age-21 restrictions at the federal and state level, as well as implementing additional safeguards on online purchases to address youth purchase and straw purchases. Reynolds defined straw purchases as “any person who purchases on behalf of an underaged person.”
Reynolds said other steps it is taking to limit youth access to its products include: meeting federal standards for child-resistant packaging; restricting the content of marketing and advertising materials; and placing the product in a non-self-service location.
The company also said Revel marketing will not feature testimonials by sports figures or celebrities or any person with special appeal to individuals under age 21, and ads will not feature anyone under age 21 portrayed as consuming the product.
“The announcement is at the core of our transforming tobacco mission and reiterates our goal to provide adult tobacco consumers with an expanded portfolio of tobacco products focused on responsible innovation and preventing potential youth use,” Mustafa said.
Dissolvable tobacco products have drawn criticism from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has protested most Reynolds tobacco innovations in recent years.
The FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee has said dissolvable products could provide a societal benefit in reducing disease from tobacco use by decreasing the number of smokers through cessation or preventing the first use of cigarettes.
It cautioned that increased use of dissolvable products also could lead to more smokers by serving as a bridge to cigarettes and/or reducing societal concern about the potential health risks of tobacco products in general.
Less harmful choices
Anti-smoking advocates said dissolvable tobacco products could play a key role over time in encouraging smokers to switch to a potentially less harmful choice.
“This development is in keeping with tobacco manufacturers’ stated commitment to provide satisfying and vastly safer smoke-free cigarette substitutes, said Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and an anti-smoking advocate.
“A robust market of e-cigarettes and other vapor products, heat-not-burn tobacco, smokeless tobacco products, such as snus, and nonpharmaceutical nicotine products gives smokers a broad array of quitting options that don’t require nicotine/tobacco abstinence.
“This has undeniable benefits for smokers’ health and public health.”
Consumers have historically shown great potential to move to lower risk products, just as has happened in transitions to safer forms of food, medicines, automobiles and sports gear, said David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and the author of several e-cigs and health studies.
“Goldman Sachs reported a few days ago that next-generation products have already captured 10 percent of the U.S. market — and over 20 percent in Japan — despite on-going efforts by the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others that limit the competitiveness of such products vis-à-vis cigarettes,” Sweanor said.
“Swedish Match’s Zyn nicotine pouches have shown sales curves that Wall Street analysts have observed rival the early stage of (top-selling e-cig) Juul.
“British American Tobacco recently trumpeted the potential for novel oral in its investor day presentation. There are clear signs that consumers are more open to such products and the market is responding.”
Sweanor said Sweden, Norway and Iceland “show the extent to which low-risk oral products can replace lethal cigarettes. We are not dealing with a theoretical concept.”
“We are in an odd situation when science and technology have presented consumer acceptable ways to end the carnage from cigarette smoking, even cigarette companies see the writing on the wall.
“But government agencies and abstinence-only anti-tobacco groups are the major barrier to achieving the health gains.”