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FDA Panel Wary of Dropping Warnings From Tobacco Pouch

Government health advisers said Friday they have serious reservations about a proposal by Swedish Match to market its smokeless tobacco pouches as less harmful than cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The company is seeking Food and Drug Administration permission to remove or revise several warning labels on the pouches, called "snus" — teabag-like pouches or loose tobacco that users stick between their cheek and gum to absorb nicotine. They are part of a growing smokeless tobacco market in America. Swedish Match holds about 9 percent of the U.S. market, which is dominated by Richmond, Virginia-based Altria, parent company of Phillip Morris.

But a panel of FDA advisers said overwhelmingly Friday that company data do not support several key changes. The eight-member panel voted unanimously that the company's application does not show that snus lack the same risks of gum diseases and tooth loss as other smokeless tobacco products.

Swedish Match also wants the FDA to certify new language that its snus have "substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes." The company points to studies showing that snus are not associated with lung cancer and lung disease. But panelists said the company's language oversimplifies the issue, since some snus users also smoke.

Most states earn poor grades for tobacco control 0:27

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- The Associated Press