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WINSTOM-SALEM, N.C. -- Since starting a second round of testing, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s dissolvable tobacco products are proving popular among women.
The product line -- Camel Sticks, Camel Strips and Camel Orbs --do not require spitting, which could be a deciding factor among female tobacco users. According to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal, females represented 45 percent of all adult smokers who bought Camel Sticks, Camel Strips and Camel Orbs during September and October. Of all adult tobacco users, 31 percent were women.
By comparison, the news outlet reported that adult males make up 85 percent of moist snuff and Camel Snus users.
R.J. Reynolds' dissolvable line is currently being sold in Denver and Charlotte, N.C. The first round of testing took place in Columbus, Ohio Indianapolis and Portland, Ore.
"We have seen a noticeable appeal and interest of the dissolvable products with adult female tobacco consumers," Reynolds spokesman David Howard told the newspaper.
Stephen Pope, an industry analyst and managing partner of Spotlight Ideas in England, said Reynolds may have discovered a niche with adult female tobacco users. "Clearly the figures for the dissolvable products make for fascinating reading and actually show that here could be a product that, if handled correctly, could well offer an opportunity for a special female-targeted product that could be as significant as Virginia Slims was for Philip Morris," he said.
The dissolvable products "could prove to be the first viable smokeless tobacco products for females," stated Bonnie Herzog, an analyst with Wells Fargo Securities LLC.
Reynolds has not said when a national rollout of the products will occur.
As the popularity of dissolvable tobacco grows, tobacco companies are sure to draw the attention of advocacy groups. Jeff Middleswart, portfolio manager for the Vice Fund of USA Mutuals, said having the Camel and Marlboro brands in dissolvable products is likely to intensify the debate among advocacy groups. One set says that smokeless tobacco products serve as gateways for teenagers to cigarettes; the other set sees the products as a way to reduce the risk of tobacco use compared with cigarettes.
"Anything tobacco will create criticism -- it's just the way of the world," Middleswart said. "A new product that has the potential to gain market share is going to be a target."
John Spangler, a professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said he found it "disturbing that any smokeless tobacco product is now becoming popular among women." His concern is that the dissolvable products may encourage women to use smokeless tobacco for the first time.
Dissolvable tobacco products have caught the eye of the Food and Drug Administration. The agency gained the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) took up the issue at its July meeting, the first step toward issuing regulations.
Colorado state officials have also put dissolvable tobacco products under the microscope. Just a few weeks after the TPSAC members began to take a closer look, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment held a hearing to begin their investigation into the products and their possible dangers, as CSNews Online previously reported.