White House weighs rule on cancer-causing chemical in chewing tobacco

White House weighs rule on cancer-causing chemical in chewing tobacco
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The White House is reviewing a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that apparently would require lower levels of a well-known carcinogen in chewing tobacco.

While it has not yet been made public, the proposed rule under review by the White House's Office of Management and Budget is listed as a tobacco product standard for N-nitrosonornicotine levels in finished smokeless tobacco products.

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The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said the chemical has long been known as one of the most troublesome cancer-causing agents in smokeless tobacco as well as in cigarette smoke.

“Obviously we have not seen the proposed rule, so we’re not exactly sure what’s in it, but we’re encouraged that a proposed rule on this chemical has gone to the White House,” said Dennis Henigan, the groups director of legal and policy analysis.

Last November, Henigan said the FDA issued an order to allow a Swedish smokeless tobacco product, known as Snus, to be marketed in the U.S. 

Snus is a moist powder that comes in a pouch and is placed between the lower lip and gum.

In the agency’s own technical review supporting it’s order, Henigan said the FDA found that the Swedish product contained significantly lower levels of N-nitrosonornicotine, or NNN, as well as another cancer causing chemical known as NNK, than over 97 percent of the smokeless tobacco products currently on the U.S. market.

Given the findings, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids wrote to the FDA.

“We wrote to the agency and said well look if these products have such lower levels than clearly it's feasible to manufacture products with lower levels of carcinogens and you should draft a product standard,” Henigan said. “It appears FDA has proposed to do something like that, something we asked for or close to it.”

The FDA would not comment on its proposal.

“Because the document is currently under review, it would not be appropriate for the FDA to discuss any details,” Michael Felberbaum, an agency spokesman, said in an email to The Hill.