GSK asks FDA to block smokeless tobacco

Smokeless tobacco foes just got a new ally. GlaxoSmithKline has asked the FDA to pull R.J. Reynolds' dissolvable tobacco products off the market completely. The products--Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips--are already sold in test markets around the country, even though they're under review by an FDA advisory committee.

"Smokeless tobacco products are currently being marketed without clear evidence of their safety," GSK says in a statement. And who could blame the drugmaker for taking umbrage? GSK, after all, had to conduct clinical trials to get its nicotine-replacement products onto the market.

Smokeless tobacco products are controversial, with some critics saying they're likely to be a "gateway" product that lead kids to eventually take up smoking, and advocates championing them as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Reynolds bills the smokeless products as cigarette alternatives--and as smoking-cessation aids.

And that's where GSK takes issue, apparently. The company says it "believes that before considering a potential role for oral dissolvable tobacco products in reducing the adverse health effects of smoking, there are significant opportunities to enhance the impact of existing smoking cessation aids, including expanding access to and use of nicotine-reduction products." In other words, GSK thinks its products should get first dibs.

- read the Winston-Salem Journal story