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Monday, March 14, 2011

Abuse liability and consumer appeal of tobacco products: a one-two punch

An in-press commentary in the CPDD journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports on a 2010 conference discussing abuse liability of tobacco products as well as their product appeal.  Both factors seem to play a role in initiation, abuse, and maintenance of tobacco dependence, and according to the report, tobacco companies know and exploit this fact.

The 2-day Conference on the Abuse Liability and Appeal of Tobacco Products, sponsored by CPDD and a number of other organizations, was held on April 8th and 9th, 2010.  The first day of the conference focused on abuse liability issues familiar to many CPDD researchers, and the second day focused on product appeal issues, a topic generally not studied by addiction researchers.

Product appeal and perception strategies include mechanisms that increase product desire or liking including packaging, marketing, and market segmentation (matching specific products with populations likely most likely to want them).

One of the key recommendations arising from the conference is that tobacco products should be subjected not only to abuse liability testing but also to product appeal assessments, and the results from these analyses should be integrated to determine actual risks for smoking initiation, maintenance, and relapse.

This integrated approach could help determine whether certain tobacco additives such as menthol, which has been implicated as increasing risk for adolescent smoking initiation and relapse risk for smokers trying to quit, should be banned or regulated, an issue under current consideration by the FDA Tobacco Product Scientific Advisory Committee, which itself is expected to make a recommendation on menthol as a cigarette additive later this month.

The approach also may help determine whether new nicotine products offered by tobacco companies such as dissolvable tobacco products (below right), which look and taste like candy, and which some have identified as likely to induce adolescent nicotine use and abuse, should be regulated or banned.
Photo Credit: Harvard School of Public Health  

Some have asserted that such products could serve as safer alternatives to cigarettes and could aid smoking cessation efforts.  However, no scientific evidence is available supporting these contentions.  In fact, these products have been challenged by the pharmaceutical company GSK which called for their withdrawal from the market until manufacturers can demonstrate safety and efficacy.  GSK markets approved smoking cessation therapies containing nicotine (nicotine replacement therapy).

The recommendations arising from this conference could lead to new collaborations between addiction researchers and marketing and consumer appeal experts, and also could lead to new governmental regulations for nicotine-containing products.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

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