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Smokers Light Up Less, Alternative Nicotine Delivery Technologies Take Center Stage

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Estimated 11 min read
American smokers are stubbing out their cigarettes. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the proportion of the adult American population that has smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetimes stood at 15.5 percent in 2016, down from 20.9 percent in 2005 (http://nnw.fm/J6dQp). Of course, quitting smoking does not always mean saying no to nicotine. The stimulant, credited with some health benefits, is highly addictive. As a result, alternative delivery biotechnologies for nicotine have become a recent R&D focus for cigarette manufacturers and other companies, including Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTC: LXRP) (LXRP Profile), Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO), British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS), Imperial Brands, (LSE: IMB) (OTC: IMBBY) and Philip Morris International, Inc. (NYSE: PM). With close to 38 million American smokers still puffing away, and nearly 1 billion worldwide, these companies are developing safer products and delivery technologies, which may wean smokers away from a habit estimated to kill about 480,000 (1 in 5) adult Americans every year.

In the 20th Century, the average American was smoking 4,345 manufactured cigarettes per year (http://nnw.fm/k7n5A). In the early 1960s, the Surgeon General of the United States published a damning report that linked smoking to lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease, and since then the percentage of American adults who smoke has declined in every year the CDC has surveyed. Around the time of the Surgeon General’s warning in 1963, 42.4 percent of American adults smoked; 50 years later, in 2013, that rate had fallen to 21.6 percent. In 2016, it dipped even further to 15.5 percent (http://nnw.fm/Mo3wa).

Recognizing this significant downturn, paired with the fact that regardless of health risks a population of consumers will continue nicotine use, biotech innovators and even big tobacco companies are looking for ways to reduce the hazards of smoking.

The Case for Smoking Alternatives 

Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) is gaining prominence for its proprietary delivery technology capable of changing the way active pharmaceutical ingredients (“APIs”) such as cannabinoids and nicotine enter the body. The company’s DehydraTECH™ technology enables delivery of lipophilic active agents within foods, beverages, capsules and other ingestible formats, thus improving the performance of beneficial ingestible products across four categories: taste, smell, speed of action, and bioabsorption and bioavailability. DehyraTECH has already been proven effective in cannabinoid delivery and is currently undergoing testing for nicotine delivery in lab animals.

When it comes to smoking, this is of considerable importance for two reasons.

First, in 2016 a Royal College of Physicians (RCP) report concluded that “nicotine alone in the doses used by smokers represents little if any hazard to the user” – rather, it is the combination of more than 4,000 chemicals released from the combustion of tobacco that is damaging. Complementary to this finding is research by the BMJ, which shows that there is no safe level of smoking and that “only complete cessation is protective and should be emphasized by all prevention measures and policies … any exposure to cigarette smoke is too much.”

Secondly, Lexaria’s technology addresses a vital concern smoking poses to the body: human lungs were not designed to become pathways for drug absorption; their sole purpose is to deliver oxygen to the blood. Nature did, however, design an ingenious system for drug and nutrient absorption, and that method is ingestible food and drink.

Lexaria’s technology is custom-designed to work with the human gastro intestinal (GI) system to deliver APIs more effectively (DehydraTECH can deliver payload molecules to the bloodstream in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, as opposed to 60 to 90 minutes for current methods), but still respects the body’s inherent internal safety mechanisms.

Delivering minute proportions of nicotine through edible food formats like coffee or breath mints has never been successfully achieved in the past, because when detected by the GI system, nicotine is generally flushed from the intestines through cramping and GI distress.

Lexaria’s DehyraTECH technology, however, acts as a trojan horse, demonstrating potential to deliver nicotine through the GI with sharply lowered side effects.

Patented Technology is Rooted in Cannabinoids, Includes Nicotine Coverage 

At present, Lexaria is the only company in the world that has been awarded patents for the improved (oral or ingestible, including pills) delivery of all cannabinoids both, psychoactive and non. These patents have been awarded in the United States and Australia and are pending in 40 more countries. This puts the company in the unusually advantageous position of owning proprietary technology that can deliver a vast range of cannabinoid-based drugs.

The company recently received a new patent award in the U.S. that also protects its delivery system for use with nicotine, potentially offering the biggest disruption to nicotine delivery since the invention of the cigarette.

“Lexaria has now locked-up the IP for its next-generation drug delivery system” Lexaria CEO Chris Bunka explained in the press release (http://nnw.fm/Q8JxJ). “This ground-breaking, patented IP builds a foundation for new business opportunities in 2018 including what could be the world’s first nicotine edibles for the smokeless tobacco industry, or improved new products for NSAID-derived pain management, as well as in the rapidly growing cannabis market.”

Licensing Model in Action 

Lexaria’s DehydraTECH system is being utilized in a number of consumer products developed by the company under three distinct brands: ViPova™, Lexaria Energy and TurboCBD™. In recent months, Lexaria has executed several key agreements that demonstrate the versatility of its technology and serve as examples of the company’s out-licensing model.

Most recently, Lexaria entered into a five-year licensing agreement with Biolog, Inc., in which Biolog (a Utah company, not to be confused with a California cell phenotyping company of the same name) will use DehydraTECHTM to empower a unique set of next-generation food and beverage cannabis infusion products to be sold in the United States(http://nnw.fm/8FvlH).

In January 2018, Lexaria also announced a licensing agreement with Cannfections Group, Inc. Per the agreement, Lexaria will provide its DehydraTECH technology to enhance the performance of Cannfections’ cannabis-infused chocolates and candies to be developed and sold in Canada and internationally. The founders of Cannfections currently manufacture chocolate retail products for several leading international and domestic chocolate brands (http://nnw.fm/Ovvy7).

Tobacco Industry Potential 

Rather than being a competitor to tobacco and cannabis companies, Lexaria aims to out-license its technology to third-party partners such as major cigarette manufacturers. Lexaria is expected to conduct its first in-vivo nicotine absorption tests in March and results are expected shortly thereafter. If positive, the industry could have its first data supporting a viable delivery technique for edible forms of nicotine. Tests are being conducted at a highly regarded, third-party laboratory.

Two giants in the industry, Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) and Philip Morris (NYSE: PM), are collaborating on the production and distribution of a gadget that they claim will reduce the risk of tobacco-related ailments for smokers who eschew cigarettes in favor of it. However, the partnership appears to be sailing through rough waters. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel concluded almost unanimously (one abstention in the 8-0 vote) that Philip Morris had not shown that its heat-not-burn device reduces the risk of smoking-related ailments. The panel did find, however, that switching to the device, known as the iQos, reduces exposure to harmful chemicals (http://nnw.fm/xsW9F).

Meanwhile, British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS.L) emphasizes the economic value of tobacco in general, but has also invested more than $1 billion into the development of Next Generation Products (“NGPs”) such as e-cigarettes and tobacco-heating products.

Without abandoning its core focus on cigarettes and other tobacco products, Imperial Brands, (LSE: IMB.L) (OTCQX: IMBBY) is also exploring the potential of NGPs to offer smokers an alternative to combustible tobacco. ” … NGPs offer us considerable growth opportunities. We are significantly stepping up our level of NGP activity in 2018 and beyond, expanding our portfolio with new product launches in new and existing markets,” the company states on its website.

With big tobacco on board to cater to consumer trends, Lexaria occupies an interesting position in the marketplace as it continues to advance its alternative delivery system for potential out-licensing to companies like Altria, Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands and others. The global tobacco industry is almost unimaginably large and orders of magnitude larger than cannabis. If proven effective, Lexaria’s technology could have the most practical and healthful application to the world’s 1 billion smokers than anything that has come before.

For more information on Lexaria, visit Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP)

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Currently located in Sydney, Australia, I have been vaping since 2009 and became active in the e-cigarette industry in late 2015. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of visiting over 700 shops in 6 countries.

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