R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. is expanding its line of spit-free nicotine products by introducing Velo this week in 70,000 retail outlets nationwide.
The company already sells Camel Snus, the top-selling snus product in the U.S.
Velo contains no tobacco leaf or other tobacco plant matter apart from the nicotine extracted from the tobacco plant, Reynolds said.
Meanwhile, snus, which became popular first in Sweden, are teabag-like pouches of pasteurized loose tobacco that users stick between their cheek and gum.
Both products are being marketed in part for use in places where smoking is prohibited because they don’t require spitting tobacco juice.
“Velo addresses key adult tobacco consumers’ preferences for choice, convenience and consideration, while providing a flavorful and enjoyable experience,” Reynolds said.
Velo is part of what British American Tobacco Plc — owner of Reynolds American Inc. — calls its “modern oral portfolio” which also consists of Revel nicotine lozenges in hard and soft textures and in mint, dark mint, crema and berry flavors.
The retail expansions of Revel and Velo “are both evidence that we are serious about accelerating transformation in the modern oral space,” said Shay Mustafa, senior vice president for Reynolds Vapor’s oral business unit.
“Once we launch e-commerce, purchases on our site will be restricted to age 21-plus adult tobacco consumers. The marketing content on our website is restricted to consumers who certify they’re age 21-plus adult tobacco consumers.
“Retail purchases, however, are available to legal-age tobacco consumers, which varies by jurisdiction.”
BAT offers the Lyft and Epok products in five European countries, with options including products containing lower levels of tobacco, and one that contains no tobacco.
Early test products
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.
In November 2017, Altria announced plans for a premarket tobacco application with the FDA 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. 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.
Pros and cons
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.
Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and an anti-smoking advocate, said: “This development is in keeping with tobacco manufacturers’ stated commitment to provide satisfying and vastly safer smoke-free cigarette substitutes.
“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.”
That includes Swedish Match’s Zyn nicotine pouches in the U.S.
Gregory Conley, president of American Vaping Association, said that “nicotine pouches have been quietly growing in popularity over the last two years and it seems this market has more long-term upside than dissolvable products.”
“As the number of state and local laws restricting the use of vaping products continue to grow, these products may be especially attractive to vapers looking for other low-risk, smoke-free alternatives.”
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.
“We are in an odd situation when science and technology have presented consumer acceptable ways to end the carnage from cigarette smoking,” Sweanor said.
“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,” he said.