Dissolvable Tobacco Products May Increase Mouth Disease In Smokers, Children

Mar 17, 2011, 08:30

When they were originally released, it looked as though dissolvable tobacco might become a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. After all, there is no smoke to breath in and no juice to spit out. But a recent study suggests that these tobacco lozenges have the potential to cause increased mouth diseases as well as possible harm to children.

The study is based on findings from John V. Goodpaster of the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and colleagues. After analyzing the complex ingredients in the products, researchers found that they contained nicotine, along with finely-ground tobacco and a variety of flavoring ingredients, sweeteners and binders. When these substances are dissolved near the lips and gums, the effects can be just as harmful for the mouth as more traditional tobacco products.

When the first dissolvable tobacco products in pellet, stick and strip forms went on sale to test markets in Indianapolis, Ind., Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Ore., they were billed as a safer way to get your tobacco fix. But the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, asserts that nicotine is still a harmful substance and prolonged exposure on the lips and gums is still harmful, no matter the delivery mechanism. The study also expressed concerns over other ingredients in the products, including coumarin, which has been banned as a flavoring agent in food because of its link to a risk of liver damage.

'The results presented here are the first to reveal the complexity of dissolvable tobacco products and may be used to assess potential health effects,' said Goodpaster.

The study also takes issue with the packaging, which they believe makes these harmful tobacco products look like gum or mints to the untrained eye. This oversight, the study asserts, could accidentally expose children to nicotine.

'The packaging and design of the dissolvables may also appeal to children, and some dissolvables, such as Orbs, may be mistaken for candy,' said Goodpaster.

Despite the tobacco company's best efforts, the scientific community is still not convinced that a healthier tobacco product is possible. Or at least, not while they contain nicotine, which Goodpaster calls 'a toxic substance linked to the development of oral cancers and gum disease.'

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry