WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time, U.S. health regulators have endorsed a brand of tobacco pouches as less harmful than cigarettes, a decision that could open the door to other less risky options for smokers.
The milestone announcement on Tuesday from the Food and Drug Administration marks the government’s first backing of a so-called “reduced risk” tobacco product.
FDA regulators stressed, though, that the Swedish Match pouches are not safe, just less harmful, and that all tobacco products pose risks. The pouches will still bear mandatory government warnings that they can cause mouth cancer, gum disease and tooth loss.
But the company will be able to advertise its tobacco pouches as posing a lower risk of lung cancer, bronchitis, heart disease and other diseases than cigarettes.
The pouches of ground tobacco, called snus — pronounced “snoose” — have been popular in Scandinavian countries for decades but are a tiny part of the U.S. tobacco market.
Users stick the teabag-like pouches between their cheek and gum to absorb nicotine. Unlike regular chewing tobacco, the liquid from snus is generally swallowed, rather than spit out. Chewing tobacco is fermented; snus goes through a steamed pasteurization process.
Swedish Match sells its snus