UST Withdraws Its Request To FTC to Allow Ad Claims
Smokeless-tobacco maker UST Inc. has withdrawn a request to the Federal Trade Commission for permission to claim in advertisements that dipping snuff is safer than puffing cigarettes.
UST, which is trying to boost its business by winning over smokers, in February asked the FTC, the nation's ad watchdog, for what is known as an "advisory opinion" that would clear the way for the company to make claims comparing the risks of different tobacco products.
In a letter dated Aug. 12, the company, whose brands include Skoal and Copenhagen, withdrew the request, saying it wanted the FTC to have the opportunity to consider information from two scientific conferences to be held later this year.
A person familiar with the situation said UST, based in Greenwich, Conn., pulled its request when it looked likely that the FTC wasn't going to approve it.
Richard Verheij, UST's general counsel, said the FTC had been weighing its options on how to proceed. "It's controversial," he said. He said UST expects to resubmit its request before the end of the year.
UST's overture drew heated opposition from many tobacco-control advocates who said that assertions that snuff is safer than smoking could encourage more young people to use smokeless tobacco and, later, cigarettes. Opponents also worried that an FTC approval would have opened the door for other tobacco companies to make claims about various modified cigarettes now coming to the market.
Others in the public-health community supported UST. While the U.S. surgeon general has concluded that smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer and other health problems, it is widely considered less dangerous than cigarettes, and some think it should be promoted as a way for nicotine addicts to get their fix in a less harmful form. Cigarettes kill roughly half of their long-term users, or more than 400,000 Americans a year, according to government estimates.