Ruyan – a cigarette substitute that billed itself as being "healthy, safe, no tar and carbon monoxide-free" – has become shrouded in controversy as consumers condemn it.
The Chinese product that entered the domestic market as a cigarette substitute last May has been shrouded in a safety cloud since a Beijing-based newspaper reported on November 22 that one inhalation of Ruyan contains 18 mg nicotine compared with about 1.2 mg for a typical cigarette.
Responding to this accusation, Miao Nan, executive president of Ruyan's producer, Beijing SBT Technology & Development Co. Ltd, argued that the product followed the Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), recommended by the WHO. This therapy atomizes the nicotine distilled from tobacco used for smoking.
Miao told CCTV that in the last twenty years, NRT has proven to be a scientific, healthy and effective way to help quit smoking.
According to Prof. Jack E. Henningfield from the WHO's Scientific Advisory Committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, NRT has proved to be effective by clinic experiments. Through this therapy, nicotine enters human body through the mouth mucosa or skin. It flows very slowly through veins to the brain, causing a reduction in stimulus and addiction. In contrast, nicotine is inhaled directly into the lungs while smoking a cigarette. Therefore, the method of inhalation is crucial for defining NRT.
Ruyan provides nicotine in the same way as smoking cigarettes, according to Miao, who claimed that it is totally safe to inhale nicotine directly into the lung.
But Prof. Henningfield held a different opinion. "Inhaling nicotine into the lung is the most dangerous and addictive form of nicotine. When the drug is inhaled into the lung, it reaches the brain in less than ten seconds in a very concentrated form. That's why cigarettes are so dangerous and addictive."
Miao also provided fifteen testing reports issued by different institutes, all confirming the effectiveness of the product. However, fourteen of them are verified to be only quality reports.
"We just did a frequent test. The contents contained or not contained in the product, which are claimed in its advertisement, were not within our testing range," said Wang Jing, a tester with Beijing Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Center.
Tong Ying with the Beijing Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, another institute issuing a test report, also explained that only simple bacteria tests had been provided.
The only report on toxicity test was presented by People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Medical Science, saying that being tar and carbon monoxide-free, the product was less harmful to white mice than normal cigarettes.
"We suggest people do not smoke either cigarettes nor Ruyan," said Yuan Shoujun, a professor with the Academy.
(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, December 30, 2006)