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Smoke-Free Laws Push Questionable Tobacco Alternatives

August 31, 2009

LANSING, Mich. - Not being able to light up legally in a public place in many Michigan communities doesn't mean the tobacco companies and others have stopped trying to get people hooked on nicotine. A raft of new products are hitting the marketplace, designed to allow people to inhale or ingest nicotine without smoke - and that has the American Lung Association concerned.

The so-called e-cigarette is one such product. The battery-powered device looks like a real paper-and-tobacco cigarette but pumps a nicotine vapor into the lungs, without putting out smoke, according to the Kathy Drea of the Lung Association.

"They do contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals. They're even saying that some of the toxic chemicals are very similar to the ones that are found in antifreeze."

Drea says there is also a new push by the tobacco companies to market variations of dissolvable tobacco products. These tablets or strips are smokeless, spit-free, made from finely milled tobacco, and held together by food-grade binders similar to candy.

Drea says some of these are being packaged in containers that look like cell phones to appeal to younger users who may want to hide their tobacco use. These products are currently being test-marketed in various locations across the country, and Drea says big tobacco hasn't given up trying to attract new customers just because many states and areas are now smoke-free.

"They look like they are in a package that is kind of in the shape of a cell phone, so kids can put it in their pocket and anybody would think that they have a cell phone in their pocket."

Drea says these tobacco products are being marketed as an alternative to smoking when users are in situations where they cannot smoke.

"They're clearly designed to appeal to children both through the packaging and through the taste, but it's not a safe product either."

The Lung Association is calling for FDA authority to regulate all tobacco products including these new hybrid tobacco "candy" products.

Tobacco companies claim the products are a safer alternative to smoking.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MI