Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblymembers Jim Wood & Kevin McCarty Urge FDA to Rein in Swedish Match for Making Misleading Claims

August 18, 2020

For Immediate Release

State Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymembers Jim Wood and Kevin McCarty Urge FDA to Rein in Swedish Match for Making Misleading Claims

Lawmakers, Tobacco Use Experts Refute Assertions Made by Firm That Wants to Dodge SB 793, the Bill Restricting Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products

SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill and Assemblymembers Jim Wood and Kevin McCarty sent a letter of complaint to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and urged the agency to prohibit Swedish Match North America from making misleading claims about its snus and ZYN products.

The legislators’ letter calls out a series of statements made on behalf of Swedish Match to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which began its review of Senate Bill 793 today. In their letter, the three lawmakers asked the FDA Monday to order Swedish Match to immediately cease and desist from making “illegal cessation claims” about its ZYN and snus products, and from claiming or implying that its products were “approved” by FDA.

SB 793 would ban retail sales of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes, flavored non-premium cigars and cigarillos, and flavored smokeless products, like ZYN and the snus made by Swedish Match. The company, through its representative, opposes the bill and says its products should be exempt.

“There is absolutely no reason to exempt Swedish Match snus and ZYN from SB 793,” Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, said today. “The company has neither sought nor obtained FDA approval to market these products for cessation. To state otherwise, or even imply it, is misleading and illegal.”

“The desperate attempts and arguments that this company, as well as others, puts forth reinforce how profitable this business of addicting youth to nicotine is and the lengths that they will go through to keep doing it,” said principal co-author Assemblymember Wood, D-Santa Rosa. “This has to stop.”

“Swedish Match snus and ZYN should not be exempt from SB 793. Not only is it illegal to market these products for cessation without FDA approval, but we must protect our kids and prevent a new generation from being hooked on tobacco,” said principal co-author Assemblymember McCarty, D-Sacramento.

Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, the Stanford pediatrics professor who is founder and executive director of Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, UCSF professor of medicine Stanton Glantz, and law and policy expert Lauren K. Lempert, both of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, also refuted the arguments advanced on behalf of Swedish Match.

Those arguments, the three experts on tobacco use said, selectively quoted a 5-year-old FDA order and cited obsolete data on flavor preferences and consumption habits by adolescents and other young people. “The market for flavored tobacco products that appeal to youth is drastically different today,” the experts said in a letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Monday. Newer data show mint, menthol and wintergreen flavors are among the most popular for youth, they wrote, adding that to assert youth don’t use smokeless tobacco is untrue. “SB 793 should not include any exemptions for Swedish Match or any smokeless tobacco product,” they said.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will decide by Friday whether SB 793 will advance to the full Assembly for a vote.

More than 50 lawmakers have signed on as co-authors to SB 793, which is co-sponsored by Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Common Sense. Over 140 organizations support the legislation.

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Further resources:

Media Contacts:
For Senator Hill: Leslie Guevarra, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov, 415-298-3404

For Assemblymember McCarty: Alexa Jenkins, alexa.jenkins@asm.ca.gov, 317-607-6780

For Assemblymember Wood: Cathy Mudge, cathy.mudge@asm.ca.gov, 916-319-2002

Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, FSAHM, Professor, Stanford University, and Founder and Executive Director, Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, bonnie.halpernfelsher@stanford.edu

Stanton Glantz, PhD, Professor of Medicine, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, stanton.glantz@ucsf.edu

Lauren K. Lempert, JD, MPH, Law and Policy Specialist, UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, lauren.lempert@ucsf.edu

Legislators’ Letter to the FDA
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/ltr-fda_re_swedishmatch.pdf

Experts’ Letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/ltr-asmapprops_halpern-felsher-glantz-lempert.pdf

Letter to Assembly Appropriations Committee on Behalf of Swedish Match
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/ltr-asmapprops_swedishmatch.pdf