It all began to take place on April 23, 2008 on US Airways flight #797 as I was headed to the Tobacco Plus Expo 08 in Las Vegas. As usual I was excited to explore new products and programs at this year’s show, and as I would learn, the show would not disappoint. The night before, I prepared for the long five-hour flight by downloading a movie on my new 80-gig iPod. It’s amazing how technology has advanced. Do you remember listening to your favorite songs on a phonograph playing your favorite 45’s? Do you remember the 8 track?
My primary interest at the show was to look at advances in the industry related to “reduced harm” tobacco products, a topic that I have spoken about often within the industry. As I was flying, and thinking about how technology has advanced so rapidly, I wondered, “Would there ever be a day that folks a lot smarter than I would find a way to make the tobacco plant harmless?” Could there ever be day when one of those genius types cracks the code and finds a way to make tobacco use safer?
While there’s no arguing the fact that smoking tobacco poses significant heath risk to consumers, there’s a continual debate on the issue of the seriousness of secondhand smoke. I have even heard from some industry experts that the use of moist tobacco products is 98% less harmful than smoking. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
When I landed in Vegas, I went immediately to my hotel room to “Google” a few things. I wanted information on a few of the companies I would be seeing at the show. Plus I wanted to research some new information on genetically engineered tobacco plants.
Over the next few days I gave more thought than usual to the question, “Who said tobacco use can’t be safer one day in the future?” I realized that past history could lead one to that conclusion. Another supporting voice would be the “anti-organizations” as well as I believe those heavily involved in “nicotine replacement therapy” products. I am confounded by those who refuse to accept the possibility that one day we can produce safer tobacco products.
While at the show I saw several new entries in the snus category. This new category is getting real crowded, real fast. I found another very interesting product that’s worth keeping an eye on, an electronic cigarette called the “Ruyan.” Other notable products were the tobacco inhaler (similar to a Vicks inhaler) that delivers the tobacco flavor and aroma of a cherry flavored cigar.
Since the show, I have also had conversations with Fuisz Tobacco regarding a film-based moist tobacco product in the form of a strip essentially applying pharmaceutical science to the production of compliant tobacco products. Now this is the question? “Could there be a day soon when science and research and technology find a way develop a safer tobacco product?”
The tobacco industry as we see it today has been demonized, but additional research is needed that will allow science to move forward in finding ways to remove the toxins and eliminate risk. It would seem to me that this would be a noble cause. Should not the government (and its policies), research institutes and public health groups join tobacco companies in the quest of making tobacco use safer?
I fully understand that there will be those that will totally be appalled with this thought. I also realize there will be those who will say it will never happen. But some will welcome the thought. Some will say if there is a will, there is a way. Could there be a day in the future when we look back at today’s use of tobacco and say, “You lit a match and there was smoke”? Wow! Why?
Lou Maiellano, president of TAZ Marketing & Consulting Group, is a broadly experienced marketing/sales manager with significant credentials in the convenience store and tobacco business. He spent more than 20 years in several operational positions with Sunoco, Mobil and Wawa and currently operates http://www.tobaccotoday.info, an interactive tobacco industry blog. He can be reached at 267-229-3856 or via email at email@example.com.