Nicogel

Homemark, a company that has previously sold a number of products declared as scams in the USA by the Federal Trade Commission, has launched a new product called Nicogel [no longer listed] onto the South African market. This product claims to be a gel made from natural extract from the stems of Nicotiana spp (Niteshade family of which tobacco is a member). The company claims that by rubbing the gel into your hands, it replaces smoking a cigarette. The product is NOT aimed at helping you stop smoking. The product claims to be “Doctor Recommended”. What a load of bull.

What is the evidence in support of these claims?
Nothing of course!

The product claims to be a concentrate of tobacco and that sufficient amount will be absorbed through the skin of the hands to replace the craving of a normal cigarette. Considering that very few products can physiologically be absorbed through skin, I would be surprised if this product works – but I have not evidence to support either my claim nor theirs. Maybe this works, maybe it is just a scam.

As one consumer wrote: “I’m using it, works okay I guess. Not the result I was hoping for. Though, what can you expect from these products? It’s a bit smelly and does not really feel as if you’ve had a smoke after application. Don’t expect too much.” [Ref]

Here is an UK ASA ruling regarding the claims of Nicogel.

ASA Adjudication on Nicogel Ltd
Nicogel Ltd
http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2006/11/Nicogel-Ltd/TF_ADJ_41956.aspx

Ad
A national press ad for Nicogel was headlined “Enjoy Cigarette Satisfaction Anytime … Anywhere … Any place At Work, In Bars, Restaurants, Trains, Planes, and Buses! With nicogel THE NUMBER ONE CIGARETTE REPLACEMENT”.

Text underneath stated “Simply dispense a single press of Nicogel and rub in to the palms of your hand just as you would hand lotion and in just a few minutes you can experience complete cigarette satisfaction that can last for up to 4 hours! …

Nicogel as the name suggests is a gel based product containing tobacco plant extract, not a cosmetic or medicine. With increasing numbers of venues now forbidding smoking; the office, your favourite bars and restaurants, the local cinema and even the plane when all you want is to get away from it all! Nicogel is here to help, designed specifically for you the smoker in mind.

Nicogel is a 21st Century tobacco product with each application containing only a tenth of the tobacco typically found in a cigarette, but that tenth can give cigarette satisfaction for up to 4 hours compared to a cigarette … Each serve, the equivalent to one cigarette (50ml pack = 50 cigarettes) No need to wash your hands after. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, just rub Nicogel into the palm of your hands to kick that urge – just use as needed!”
Issue

Pfizer Consumer Health Products challenged whether:

1. the ad implied the product would help people quit smoking and therefore made a medicinal claim for a product that did not have a Marketing Authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA);

The ASA challenged:

2. the efficacy of the product and in particular the claim “in just a few minutes you can experience complete cigarette satisfaction that can last for up to 4 hours” and

3. whether one 50 ml pack was the equivalent of 50 cigarettes.

CAP Code (Edition 11)
3.1
7.1
50.1
50.11
Response

Nicogel said the ad was no longer in use and had been replaced with a new ad. They said the new ad no longer included the claims “in just a few minutes you can experience complete cigarette satisfaction that can last for up to 4 hours” and “Each serve, the equivalent to one cigarette (50ml pack = 50 cigarettes)”.

1. Nicogel said the product was a water-soluble gel, the active ingredient of which was tobacco. They asserted that the product had been sanctioned by the MHRA for sale in the UK when marketed as a cigarette replacement product. They asserted that the product was designed to allow the use of tobacco where the act of smoking was prohibited or undesirable. They said the product contained tobacco as found in cigarettes but without the tar or combustible materials used in the manufacturing of cigarettes.

Nicogel asserted that the product replaced the cigarette but not the tobacco and was therefore a cigarette replacement product. They argued that no reference was made, implicitly or explicitly, to quitting smoking.

2. Nicogel asserted that, despite selling the product worldwide, they had not had a single complaint about its efficacy. They argued that further validation of the product’s efficacy was shown by consumers making repeat purchases.

3. Nicogel said each 50 ml pack contained the equivalent dry weight of tobacco of 50 cigarettes prior to the washing, cleaning and sanitization steps of the tobacco during the manufacturing process of Nicogel. They asserted that the satisfaction gained from one application of Nicogel was equivalent to the satisfaction gained from smoking a cigarette.

Assessment

1. Not upheld

The ASA contacted the MHRA, which confirmed that the product did not have a Marketing Authorisation from them. It would not, however, confirm whether the ad contained a medicinal claim. We considered that the ad did not claim that the product could help people quit smoking but instead made clear that it was intended to replace a cigarette at a time or place when smoking was not allowed. We concluded therefore that the ad did not make a medicinal claim.

On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clause 50.11 (Health & beauty products and therapies – Medicines) but did not find it in breach.

2. Upheld

We noted the claim was no longer in use. We also noted Nicogel had received no complaints about the claim “in just a few minutes you can experience complete cigarette satisfaction that can last for up to 4 hours”. We considered, however, that because we had not seen evidence to substantiate that particular claim or the general efficacy of the product, the ad was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies – General).

3. Upheld

We noted the claim was no longer in use and Nicogels assertion that one application of the product gave the same satisfaction as smoking a cigarette. We also noted, however, that Nicogel had sent no evidence to support that assertion. We noted the weight of tobacco was the same for 50 ml of Nicogel and 50 cigarettes before the manufacturing process of Nicogel. We also noted the ad stated “Nicogel is a 21st Century tobacco product with each application containing only a tenth of the tobacco typically found in a cigarette”, which we considered contradicted the claim “Each serve, the equivalent to one cigarette”. We considered that consumers were likely to infer from the claim “Each serve, the equivalent to one cigarette (50ml pack = 50 cigarettes)” that 50 ml of packaged Nicogel as sold contained the same amount of tobacco as 50 packaged cigarettes as sold. We considered that, because that was not the case, the claim was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies – General).

Action

We told Nicogel not to repeat the claims “in just a few minutes you can experience complete cigarette satisfaction that can last for up to 4 hours”, “Each serve, the equivalent to one cigarette (50ml pack = 50 cigarettes)” and not to make similar efficacy claims in future. We reminded Nicogel that they should hold evidence to substantiate all claims and that that evidence should be sent to the ASA on request.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)

One Response to Nicogel

  1. glynis fowler 15 May, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I have been searching for where I can buy Nicogel. I found it to be far better than the patch or chewing gum which made me feel nauseous. I have given up smoking twice using nicogel with no side effects or cravings. At the time I was under huge stress as my daughter and husband had cancer. On these occasions I stopped smoking for a few years.
    I am wanting to stop again and I cant find Nicogel anywhere but in the USA. Champex is a mind changing drug so I am not interested, side effects are not good.Please bring Nico gel back. Many thanks Glynis Fowler

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