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FDA allows Swedish Match to market smokeless tobacco products as 'less harmful'

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized Swedish Match AB's U.S. arm to market its snus smokeless tobacco products as less harmful to consumers, according to an Oct. 22 release.

The agency said it has concluded that completely switching from cigarettes to Swedish Match USA Inc.'s products lowers certain health risks. It has therefore allowed the company to sell the items through the modified risk tobacco product pathway.

The authorization is limited to five years and covers eight of the company's snus smokeless tobacco products sold under the General brand name. Swedish Match USA can market the products with the claim "Using General Snus instead of cigarettes puts you at a lower risk of mouth cancer, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis."

The FDA noted that the move does not mean these products are safe or "FDA approved," adding that all tobacco products are potentially harmful and addictive.

"Today's action demonstrates the viability of the pathway for companies to market specific tobacco products as less harmful to consumers, but only following a thorough scientific evaluation by the FDA," the agency said.

The decision comes as the agency, along with other government institutions, ramps up the crackdown on vaping products and e-cigarettes following reports that these products cause seizures and respiratory illnesses. The multi-agency campaign against vaping has targeted companies like Juul Labs Inc., its shareholder Altria Group Inc. and Altria subsidiary Philip Morris USA Inc.

Earlier in October, the FDA warned customers not to use vaping products containing THC after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registered 1,080 lung injury cases related to vaping, with 18 confirmed deaths. As of Oct. 15, the death toll has risen to 33 and the number of injuries has grown to 1,479.