Altria has announced it will test a new smokeless nicotine product in convenience stores throughout Virginia starting in early June. The new product, called Verve, is a chewable lozenge containing nicotine, but no tobacco. According to Altria, Verve is made from a polymer and non-tobacco cellulose fibers with mint flavoring and nicotine.
Health advocates have used Altria’s announcement to claim the need for FDA to quickly assert its regulatory authority over all tobacco products, as well as to prevent tobacco companies from test marketing new products on American consumers like “guinea pigs.” FDA has announced its intent to broaden its authority to cover additional tobacco products; however, it has yet to do so. FDA’s regulatory authority would appear to cover products like Verve, which (like electronic cigarettes) do not contain tobacco but do contain nicotine that is derived from tobacco.
As the industry continues to offer innovative new products, it is reasonable to assume that FDA will assert its jurisdiction — including its authority to approve “new tobacco products” — over these products. It remains to be seen whether FDA’s authority will stifle such products that may be less harmful than traditional products.