New smokeless tobacco products are flashy, somewhat disguised, and may appeal to young people, but tobacco prevention specialists in Montana are hoping to bring awareness before the products are readily available here.
Some tobacco products are becoming available in forms that mimic tea bags, breath mints and toothpicks, but they are not yet regulated the same as cigarettes. The products are dissolvable and, according to a “new products” document from the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program, “are made from finely milled tobacco and are held together by food-grade binders. They do not produce smoke, and they do not require spitting.”
The nicotine level in these dissolvable products is “unregulated and unpredictable,” the document states.
Katie Martin, tobacco prevention specialist with the City-County Health Department, made a presentation at the Youth Connections Coalition meeting Tuesday morning, sharing information about these new products that could soon hit the shelves in local stores.
Martin just returned from a national conference armed with information to share.
“The conference made it apparent to me how big of a problem this could be for our youth,” she said.
The new products are packaged to appeal to young people, Martin said.
“These products provide an opportunity for tobacco companies to get around policies,” she said. “They may seem less harmful, but they aren’t.”
Drenda Niemann, director of Youth Connections, says the health department has been a great partner in preventing substance abuse and this is another example.
Last year, 23.6 percent of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders surveyed in the Montana Prevention Needs Assessment reported using smokeless tobacco.
Niemann says the presentation was the first step in building awareness around these products.
“Smokeless tobacco is increasing and we want to be ahead of the game as much as possible,” she said.
More often than not, tobacco companies have already launched extensive marketing campaigns before the awareness is out there, but Niemann is hoping this time it’s a little different.
“We are hoping we are ahead of the game this time around,” she said.
Martin said it’s unclear when Montanans should expect to see these products.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com