Title:
Porous plastic smokeless tobacco substitutes
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods for providing synthetic substitutes for smokeless tobacco are provided. In one form, the application relates to systems for cessation of smokeless tobacco use and methods for making and using same. More particularly, but not exclusively, the application relates to the use of a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco. The porous plastic members define a matrix including an internal network of passages in communication with pores on the exterior of the dispensing members. Residing within the matrix is a dispensate imitative of one or more characteristics of smokeless tobacco which is extractable from the matrix upon exposure to a fluid. In one form, the dispensate may be a tobacco derivative including one or more of nicotine, tobacco flavoring, menthol, vitamins, minerals, therapeutic agents, and/or additional flavoring.



Inventors:
Luzenberg Jr., Robert S. (Birmingham, AL, US)
Application Number:
12/079964
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
03/31/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
131/274
International Classes:
A24B15/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
MAYES, DIONNE WALLS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Krieg DeVault LLP (Mishawaka, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for providing a smokeless tobacco substitute, comprising: a plurality of dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, wherein each of said plurality of dispensing members comprises a porous plastic material, said porous plastic material including a matrix defining an internal network of passages and pores on an exposed surface of said matrix in fluid communication with said passages; and a tobacco substituting dispensate residing within said passages of said matrix which is extractable therefrom upon placement of said plurality of dispensing members within an internal cavity of a human user.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein said pores have an average size of from about 20 microns to about 200 microns.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein said dispensate comprises an aqueous fluid.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein said dispensate comprises a non-aqueous fluid.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein said non-aqueous fluid is selected from the group consisting of a gas and an oil.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein said dispensate includes an additive selected from the group consisting of a flavoring, a pharmaceutical, a nutritional supplement, caffeine, a dietary supplement, water and combinations thereof.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein said flavoring is a member selected from the group consisting of: spearmint, cinnamon, raspberry, orange, rose, wintergreen, mint, apple, vanilla, peach, citrus, cherry, menthol, camphor and whiskey.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said matrix comprises a thermoplastic polymer selected from the group consisting of polypropylene and polyethylene.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein said thermoplastic polymer comprises ultra high molecular weight polyethylene.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein said dispensate is a tobacco substitute.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein said matrix of said porous plastic material is operable to wick the dispensate toward a saliva source.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein said dispensate includes at least one of nicotine, tobacco flavoring and vitamin A.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein each of said dispensing members is defined by an elongated strip of said porous plastic.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein each of said dispensing members is defined by a particle of said porous plastic.

15. The system of claim 1, wherein each of said dispensing members is defined by a pliable sheet of said porous plastic.

16. The system of claim 1, wherein said plurality of dispensing members is positioned in a fluid permeable and sealable membrane, said membrane being structured to permit said dispensate to pass from said plurality of dispensing members therethrough.

17. A method, comprising: providing a porous plastic material comprising a matrix defining an internal network of passages and pores on an exposed surface of said matrix in fluid communication with said passages; dividing said material into a plurality of individual components sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco; and wherein said material includes a tobacco substitute within the passages of said matrix, said tobacco substitute being extractable therefrom upon placement of said plurality of individual components within an internal cavity of a human user.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein said quantity of smokeless tobacco is selected from the group consisting of tobacco leaves and dip.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein said tobacco substitute comprises a tobacco extract.

20. The method of claim 19, wherein said tobacco extract includes an additive selected from the group consisting of: nicotine, menthol, flavoring, vitamins, minerals, and therapeutic agents.

21. The method of claim 17, wherein dividing said material includes shredding said material into a plurality of shreds.

22. The method of claim 17, wherein dividing said material includes shredding said material into a plurality of elongated strips.

23. The method of claim 17, wherein said material includes a thickness and dividing said material includes shaving a plurality of pliable layers from said thickness.

24. The method of claim 17, further comprising providing a liquid permeable and sealable membrane and placing said plurality of individual components into said membrane.

25. A method for introducing a smokeless tobacco substitute to a human user, comprising: providing a plurality of dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, wherein each of said dispensing members comprises a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and pores on an exposed surface of said matrix in fluid communication with said passages, said passages including the smokeless tobacco substitute positioned therein; and placing said plurality of dispensing members into the mouth of a user to cause the smokeless tobacco substitute to be released to the user.

26. The method of claim 25, wherein said smokeless tobacco substitute is saliva-soluble and wherein contact with saliva extracts said smokeless tobacco substitute from said exterior pores of said matrix and said internal passages of said matrix.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein said matrix is structured to wick said smokeless tobacco substitute through said network of passages toward a saliva source.

28. The method of claim 25, wherein said smokeless tobacco substitute includes a tobacco extract.

29. The method of claim 28, wherein said smokeless tobacco substitute includes an additive selected from the group consisting of: vitamins, minerals, menthol, synthetic flavoring, nicotine, tobacco flavor, and therapeutic agents.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/920,947 filed Mar. 30, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The present application relates to systems and methods for providing, inter alia, synthetic substitutes for smokeless tobacco. In one form, the application relates to systems directed to cessation of smokeless tobacco use and to methods for making and using same. More particularly, but not exclusively, the application relates to the use of a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco, to deliver one or more substances characteristic of the smokeless tobacco to a human user.

Many products have been developed to address the harmful addictions to tobacco products. For example, the use of smoking cessation devices to address a smoker's addiction to harmful tobacco products has become commonplace. Unfortunately, current smoking cessation devices have not proved to be beneficial alternatives to users of smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco. In this arena, it is often desired to improve the independence of a user from smokeless tobacco products, increase the realness of the alternatives, and ultimately provide more positive user outcomes. Thus, there is a need for additional contributions in this area of technology.

SUMMARY

One aspect of the present application is a unique system for cessation of smokeless tobacco use. Other aspects include unique methods, systems, devices, instrumentation, and apparatus involving a synthetic substitute for smokeless tobacco.

In one embodiment of the present application, a system for providing a smokeless tobacco substitute is provided. The system includes a plurality of dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco. Each of the plurality of dispensing members includes a porous plastic material including a matrix defining an internal network of passages. The porous plastic material also defines pores on an exposed surface of the matrix which are in fluid communication with the passages. The passages include a dispensate residing therein which is extractable from the passages when the plurality of dispensing members is placed within an internal cavity of a human user, such as the mouth.

In another embodiment of the present application, a method includes providing a porous plastic material including a matrix defining an internal network of passages and pores on an exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages and dividing the material into a plurality of individual components sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco. The material includes a tobacco substitute within the passage of the matrix which is extractable therefrom upon placement of the plurality of dispensing members within an internal cavity of a human user, such as the mouth.

In yet another embodiment of the present application, a method for introducing a smokeless tobacco substitute to a human user is provided. The method includes providing a plurality of dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco. Each of the dispensing members includes a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and pores on an exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with said passages. The passages include a smokeless tobacco mimicking dispensate positioned therein. The method also includes placing the plurality of dispensing members into the mouth of a user to cause the dispensate to be released.

In one or more of the above embodiments, the porous plastic matrix includes a thermoplastic polymer. In another embodiment, the thermoplastic polymer is one of polypropylene, polyethylene or mixtures thereof. In a variant of this embodiment, the polymer is ultra high molecular weight polyethylene. In certain embodiments, the pores on the exposed surface of the matrix have an average size of from about 20 microns to about 200 microns. In other embodiments, the pores have an average size of from about 40 microns to about 150 microns. In yet other embodiments, the pores have an average size of from about 134 microns to about 144 microns.

In one embodiment, the dispensate is a tobacco substitute including nicotine and tobacco flavoring. In one form, the tobacco substitute may be a powder or liquid tobacco extract. In one embodiment, the dispensate is an aqueous fluid. In another embodiment, the dispensate is a non-aqueous fluid. Examples of non-aqueous fluids include, without limitation, gas and oil. The dispensate can also include other additives. Examples of other additives include flavoring, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, dietary supplements, water and combinations thereof. Where the dispensate includes a flavoring, examples of flavorings include spearmint, cinnamon, raspberry, orange, rose, wintergreen, mint, apple, vanilla, peach, citrus, cherry, menthol, camphor and whiskey.

It is an object of the present application to provide new methods, systems and materials for providing a user with one or more alternatives to smokeless tobacco by using a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members.

Further objects, embodiments, forms, features, aspects, benefits and advantages will become apparent from the drawings and detailed description herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

Although the characteristic features of this application will be particularly pointed out in the claims, the invention itself, and the manner in which it may be made and used, may be better understood by referring to the following description taken in connection with the accompanying figures forming a part hereof.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a porous plastic member suitable for producing a plurality of dispensing members.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an alternatively shaped porous plastic member suitable for producing a plurality of dispensing members.

FIG. 3 is side view of a plurality of particulate or shredded dispensing members.

FIG. 4 is a side view of a plurality of elongated strip dispensing members.

FIG. 5 is a side view of a plurality of leaf-shaped dispensing members.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a membrane for holding a plurality of dispensing members.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a storage container for holding a plurality of dispensing members.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment storage container for holding a plurality of dispensing members.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to particular embodiments of the invention and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended, such alterations and further modifications in the invention, and such further applications of the principles of the invention as described herein being contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention pertains.

The present application discloses novel methods and systems for providing synthetic substitutes for smokeless tobacco. In one form, the systems and methods may be directed to cessation of smokeless tobacco use. More particularly, but not exclusively, the application relates to the use of a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco, to deliver one or more substances characteristic of the smokeless tobacco to a human user. The porous plastic members each include a matrix defining an internal network of passages. A number of pores in fluid communication with the passages are disposed on the external surface of the matrix. The matrix includes some form of a tobacco-like dispensate, as will be described herein, which is extractable from the matrix upon contact with a fluid, such as human saliva. As an example, the matrix is structured to wick the dispensate toward a saliva source. Thus, in one embodiment, the dispensing members are placed into a user's mouth, saliva contacts the pores on the external surface and the dispensate is extracted, bringing the extracted dispensate into contact with taste receptors and mucosal membranes and/or digestive organs to satisfy a taste expectation and possibly to transfer a bio-absorbable ingredient of the dispensate into a user's bloodstream to satisfy a craving for a substance, such as, for example, nicotine. The dispensate may vary in one or more forms and may include a tobacco extract, nicotine, menthol, flavoring, vitamins, minerals, and therapeutic agents, just to name a few possibilities.

It should be appreciated that the term “smokeless tobacco” is used herein to refer to tobacco that is used by a consumer by positioning the tobacco into a cavity of the body. An example includes positioning the tobacco in his or her mouth and holding it there over an extended period of time, during which the user's saliva mixes with the tobacco and is then typically expectorated, or spit out, after the flavor is enjoyed for a desired period of time. Certain forms of smokeless tobacco include whole or partial pieces of tobacco leaves and are typically referred to as “chewing tobacco” or “chaw.” A serving or “wad” of this form is commonly placed by a user in his or her cheek. With respect to other forms of smokeless tobacco, typically referred to as “snuff”, “longcut” or “finecut” moist smokeless tobacco or “dip” tobacco, a serving of the tobacco, commonly referred to as a “pinch”, is commonly placed by a user at a location between his or her lower lip and gum. Another form of smokeless tobacco that is also typically placed by a user between his or her lower lip and gum is a small saliva-permeable pouch in which snuff, longcut, finecut or dip tobacco is placed and retained during use. Such smokeless tobacco pouches are encompassed within the meaning of the term “smokeless tobacco.” With each of these forms, saliva carries nicotine to the inferior or superior labia arteries and introduces it to the circulatory system of a user.

As indicated above, the present application is directed to, inter alia, a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members sized and structured to imitate a quantity of smokeless tobacco and includes a matrix defining an internal network of passages. It is contemplated that these porous plastic members may be formed from machining, cutting, grinding, slicing or the like from a larger porous plastic article, such as articles 10 and 20 respectively illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, pores 12 and 22 may be seen on external surfaces 14 and 24, respectively, of articles 10 and 20. Pores 12 and 22 are in communication with an internal network of passages formed in the porous plastic matrix. In another form, it is contemplated that the porous plastic dispensing members may be individually molded, such that each has a predetermined size without being obtained from one of articles 10 and 20 or another similar article. Examples of various size and shape dispensing members which are contemplated by the present application are illustrated in FIGS. 3-5. While not illustrated in FIGS. 3-5, it should be appreciated that each of the dispensing members includes pores disposed on the external surface thereof similar to the pores 12 and 22. These pores are also in communication with an internal network of passages (also not shown).

FIG. 3 illustrates a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members 30 in a particulate or shredded form. In one embodiment, the plurality of dispensing members 30 may be derived from one or both of articles 10 and 20 or another similar article. Alternatively, each of the plurality of dispensing members 30 may be individually molded. It should be appreciated that each of the plurality of dispensing members 30 is physically sized and structured to imitate the physical characteristics of a “finecut”, “dip” or “snuff” tobacco product. Accordingly, the dispensing members 30 may be packed together to provide a serving or “a pinch” to be placed into a user's mouth. Additionally, the size, shape and texture of each of these members may vary as would occur with the corresponding tobacco product.

In regard to FIG. 4, an alternative embodiment of a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members 40 formed as elongated strips is illustrated. In one embodiment, the plurality of dispensing members 40 may be derived from one or both of articles 10 and 20 or another similar article. In another form, each of the plurality of dispensing members 40 may be individually molded. It should be appreciated that each of the plurality of dispensing members 40 is physically sized and structured to imitate the physical characteristics of a “longcut” tobacco product. Accordingly, the size, shape and texture of each of these members 40 may vary as would occur with the corresponding tobacco product. Moreover, the dispensing members 40 may also be packed together to provide a serving or “a pinch” to be placed into a user's mouth.

In FIG. 5 there is illustrated a plurality of porous plastic dispensing members 50 which are “leaf-like” and sized and configured similar to whole or partial tobacco leaves including leaf portion 51 and stem portion 52. In one embodiment, the plurality of dispensing members 50 may be derived from one or both of the articles 10 and 20 or another similar article. It is also contemplated that the plurality of dispensing members 50 may be individually molded. When dispensing members 50 are derived from one of articles 10 and 20, they may be sliced off a thickness thereof. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, article 20 includes a thickness T from which thin slices may be taken to form members 50. In this manner, it is contemplated that the slices may be formed into their “leaf-like” shape by a pressing or stamping. Independent of the manner in which the dispensing members 50 are formed, it is contemplated that they are pliable to provide characteristics similar to those of “chewing tobacco.” Accordingly, the dispensing members 50 may be packed or rolled together to provide a serving or “wad” to be placed against a user's cheek. Additionally, the size, shape and texture of each of these members 50 may vary as would occur with the corresponding tobacco product.

With respect to each of the forms of dispensing members 30, 40 and 50 illustrated in FIGS. 3-5, it should be appreciated that a dispensate may be provided in the internal network of passages thereof either before or after the dispensing members are formed in their final configurations.

A fluid permeable and sealable membrane 60 is illustrated in FIG. 6. It is contemplated that any of dispensing members 30, 40 and 50 may be placed in membrane 60 to retain the respective dispensing members in a closely-held relationship. In one form, membrane 60 may be used when a user substitutes a “dry snuff” material which is insufflated into the nasal passage of the user with the dispensing members described herein. Membrane 60 is generally permeable to a bodily fluid, such as saliva or nasal mucus. Thus, the fluid may pass through membrane 60 to extract the dispensate from the dispensing members and deliver the dispensate to the user.

It should be appreciated that dispensing members 30, 40 and 50 may be packaged similarly to the manner in which corresponding smokeless tobacco products are packaged. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 7, dispensing members 30 have been placed in interior 71 of a cylindrical container 70. As will be appreciated by those having skill in the art, container 70 may be fitted with a lid member (not shown) to prevent contamination of dispensing members 30 and/or escape of the dispensate contained within dispensing members 30. In another form illustrated in FIG. 8, a pouch 80 has an interior 81 which is structured to receive dispensing members 50. It should be appreciated that pouch 80 is of a conventional type and may include a sealable portion which may be closed in order to prevent contamination of dispensing members 50 and/or release of the dispensate contained within dispensing members 50. It is also contemplated that dispensing members 30, 40 and 50 may be packaged in any suitable container in addition to or in lieu of those illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8.

As indicated above, the porous plastic material provides a matrix defining an internal network of passages. The matrix also includes “pores” which pass through its exposed surfaces in fluid communication with the internal passages and also with the article's environment. As used herein, the term “exposed surface” is intended to refer to a surface of the dispensing member with which a fluid comes into contact. Stated alternatively, an exposed surface is defined with respect to a dispensing member's macrostructure as a surface which defines the shape of the dispensing member and which generally defines the boundary between the dispensing member and its environment, whether or not the surface is visible from a point external of the dispensing member.

An “internal passage” or an “internal network of passages” refers to the compositional microstructure of the porous plastic matrix, and refers to spaces defined internally, i.e., within the porous plastic matrix. An internal passage is distinct for purposes of describing the present device from a recess or an aperture defined by the device. As will be understood by a person skilled in the relevant art, characteristics of internal passages may be modified by varying molding parameters when making the porous plastic material, such as, for example, the size of granule materials used to make the porous plastic matrix and/or the temperature and/or the pressure used in the molding process.

Dispensing members are prepared in accordance with the present application such that a porous plastic matrix, having a network of internal, interconnected passages therein, holds a dispensate material until an extraction force is exerted on the dispensing member. An example of an extraction force is the wicking force exerted by a fluid that is in contact with an exposed surface of the matrix, at which time the dispensate material passes through the surface of the dispensing member and into the fluid.

In one aspect of the application, the dispensate is a solid material. In one corresponding manner of making a matrix in accordance with the application, a granular thermoplastic polymer is mixed with a dry water-soluble or water-dispersible powder and the mixture is then molded at a predetermined temperature and pressure. As used herein, the term “powder” is intended to refer to a substantially dry, particulate solid material. In an alternate aspect of the application, the dispensate material selected to be dispensed using a dispensing member disclosed herein is a liquid. In this aspect of the application, a matrix may be made by mixing the liquid dispensate material with thermoplastic polymer granules prior to molding, as described above. Alternatively, a granular thermoplastic polymer is molded in the absence of the liquid dispensate material which is subsequently introduced into the internal passages.

A matrix that comprises a liquid dispensate held within the internal network of passages may alternatively be made by first forming a porous plastic matrix, and then introducing a liquid dispensate into the internal network of passages to provide a dispensing article. To make the porous plastic matrix, a granular thermoplastic polymer is first molded into a desired shape in the absence of a dispensate material. A liquid dispensate may then be introduced into the internal passages of the formed matrix, for example, by placing the matrix in a substantial vacuum and then immersing the matrix in the liquid dispensate so that the dispensate flows through the pores and into the internal network of passages. Having introduced the liquid dispensate into the matrix in this manner, the matrix may then be used as described herein to dispense the liquid into a fluid that comes into contact with the article. It is also understood that a matrix that has become spent, i.e., in which the dispensate has been exhausted, may be recharged with a liquid dispensate as described.

It is contemplated that a wide variety of molding techniques may be used to produce the porous plastic material. While it is not intended that the present application be limited by any theory by which it achieves its result, it is believed that, as the polymer granules are heated, the outer surfaces thereof become softened or tacky. When this occurs, pressure exerted upon the mixture causes the polymer granules to contact one another and adhere together. Thereafter, when the article cools, the points of contact become relatively strong points of adhesion, thus providing a relatively strong composite which is resistant to dusting, crumbling and breaking in the course of normal usage.

It is understood that a wide variety of material specifications (such as polymer type, polymer size, granule size distribution, dispensate powder type, dispensate powder particle size distribution and ratio of polymer to dispensate) and also a wide variety of process parameters (such as temperature and pressure) may be used in accordance with this application to provide porous plastic matrixes having various characteristics. For example, porous plastic matrixes may be made in accordance with the application that have differing rates of introduction of dispensates into a fluid. These rates of introduction are believed to be dependent in part upon the dimensions of the internal passages and pores, which may be controlled by varying the material specifications and process parameters described herein. It is within the ability of a skilled artisan, armed with the present description to select combinations of materials and parameters to provide articles having differing rates of dispensate release.

To provide porous plastic matrixes in accordance with the application having differing dispensate-release characteristics, articles are made in which the overall volume of the internal passages differ (thereby varying the amount of dispensate that the matrix holds) and/or in which the dimensions of the internal passages and the pores differ (thereby varying the rate at which the dispensate passes from the matrix into a fluid). Dimensions of the internal structure of the matrix may be varied, for example, by selecting thermoplastic polymer granules having larger or smaller granular sizes, by adjusting the process temperature or process pressure at which the articles are molded, and/or by varying the ratio of polymer granules to dispensate powder in a mixture to be molded into an article. Additionally, it is understood by a skilled artisan that different thermoplastic polymers or polymers having different molecular weights typically have different melting and solidifying characteristics. Therefore, it is within the purview of a skilled artisan to select a polymer suitable for a given application. In this regard, a number of companies presently produce porous plastic articles, such as, for example, MicoPore Plastics, Inc. (Tucker, Ga.); Porex Technologies Corp. (Fairburn, Ga.); Gen Pore, Inc. (Redding, Pa.); and Innerflow, Inc. (New York, N.Y.). Further examples of polymer materials are provided below.

In one embodiment, thermoplastic polymer granules used to make the porous plastic matrix have a size distribution wherein at least about 90% of the granules are between about 30 and about 120 mesh. In another embodiment, at least about 90% of the granules are between about 50 and about 100 mesh, and in yet another embodiment, about 90% are between about 50 and about 70 mesh. It is understood that, where it is desired that the dispensate be released relatively quickly from an article, a larger granule size may be selected and, where it is desired that the dispensate be dispensed more slowly, a smaller granule size may be selected.

In making a dispensing member in accordance with one aspect of the application, the mixture of polymer granules and dispensate to be molded has a polymer:dispensate ratio of from about 6:4 to about 9:1 by weight, more particularly from about 7:3 to about 8:2 by weight. Other ratios, however, will depend upon the specific starting materials selected for use and the size distributions thereof (or physical characteristics where the dispensate is a liquid).

It is important in manufacturing methods that the polymer granules are present in sufficient quantity that, upon application of pressure, substantially every granule is in contact with at least two other granules, and preferably with three or more other granules. When the temperature of the mixture is raised to a satisfactory level for molding in accordance with the application, and the outer surfaces of the polymer granules are softened to a tacky state, the points of contact between granules provide points of adhesion. Upon subsequent cooling of the matrix, the points of adhesion become strengthened to provide a relatively strong bond. Thus, where the ratio of polymer granules to dispensate particles is sufficiently high, there exists sufficient points of contact to provide an article having good tensile strength and powdering/crumbling resistance. It is understood that a matrix molded using a mixture having an excessive proportion of dispensate therein may have an unsatisfactory tensile strength, or may fail to form at all.

It is also understood that a polymer granule to dispensate particle ratio which is relatively high will result in a matrix which releases dispensate into a fluid relatively slowly and in a relatively small overall quantity. In certain aspects of the application, such as, for example, where a slow rate of dispersement of dispensate from the matrix is desired, a high polymer:dispensate ratio could be utilized. In alternate embodiments, however, where, for example, a higher dispensate concentration is desired, a lower polymer:dispensate ratio could be utilized, within a desired range for making a sufficiently strong dispensing article.

It is important in the practice of the application to avoid a molding temperature or pressure which is too high or too low. In the case of the former (i.e., excessive temperature and/or pressure), the matrix may become overly compacted, thereby causing the polymer to encase the dispensate, resulting in an article which resembles a solid block. This phenomenon is believed to impair or destroy the interconnected internal network of passages and eliminate the dispensing function of the matrix. Where the temperature and/or pressure is too low, the resulting molded matrix may not have adequate tensile strength and, therefore, may have a tendency to crumble or break apart.

For purposes of efficiency in making the porous plastic matrix, the polymer selected for use in accordance with the application may have a melting temperature of from about 115° F. to about 415° F., or more particularly from about 190° F. to about 340° F., and most particularly from about 240° F. to about 290° F. In accordance with one aspect of the application, the thermoplastic polymer used to make a matrix is polyethylene. A polyethylene material which may be used in accordance with the application is HOLTALEN GHR 8020, which is commercially available from Hoechst A G, Werk Ruhrchemie, D-46128 Oberhausen. Where it is desired that the dispensate be dispensed relatively quickly from the porous plastic member, a lower temperature and/or pressure may be selected in the molding process. In contrast, where it is desired that the dispensate be dispensed more slowly, a higher temperature and/or pressure may be selected.

The porous plastic material may be formed by any one of a wide variety of thermoplastic polymers available commercially; however, as the polymer is intended to come into contact with humans, it is understood that the polymer is preferably one which satisfies relevant safety requirements. Examples of thermoplastic polymers include polypropylene and polyethylene. In a more particular example, the thermoplastic polymer is ultra high molecular weight polyethylene. In another form, the thermoplastic material may be bioresorbable or biodegradable. Examples of bioresorbable and biodegradable materials for use in the present application include, but are not restricted to: poly(amino acids), polyanhydrides, polycaprolactones, poly(lacti-glycolic acid), polyhydroxybutyrates, polyorthoesters, polylactide, polyglycolide, tyrosine-derived polycarbonate, polyphosphazene and blends of these polymers.

In an exemplary form, the dispensate generally includes features which imitate the characteristics of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco. For example, the dispensate may include nicotine, tobacco flavoring, menthol, and/or other additives which are commonly found in tobacco products. Furthermore, the dispensate can optionally include additional ingredients that are not typically found in tobacco products, such as, for example, vitamins, minerals, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, dietary supplements, water, caffeine and mixtures thereof. Examples of vitamins include, without limitation, vitamin A and vitamin E. The dispensate may also include one or more flavorings, including for example, spearmint, cinnamon, raspberry, orange, rose, wintergreen, mint, apple, vanilla, peach, citrus, cherry, menthol, camphor and whiskey.

In an embodiment in which a liquid dispensate is used, the dispensate can be an extract from tobacco leaves. In another form, the dispensate can be a synthetic tobacco flavor. One method that can be used to provide a synthetic tobacco flavor is set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 4,233,993 to Miano et al., which is herein incorporated by its entirety. Additionally, the dispensate in a powder form may be produced in any number of methods as would be appreciated by one having ordinary skill in the art. U.S. Pat. No. 6,845,777 to Pera, which is herein incorporated by reference, is directed to one method of creating a powder including tobacco properties of which can be used as a dispensate in the current application. It is further contemplated that the dispensate may be provided in a crystallized form.

When in a liquid form, the dispensate can be composed of, for example, an aqueous liquid, an alcohol, a non-aqueous fluid such as a gas or an oil, as well as mixtures thereof. In one particular embodiment, the dispensate composition is composed primarily of oil. When a porous plastic article is made using conventional porous plastic manufacturing processes, the article will typically have a hydrophobic nature at the completion of the molding operation. Without requiring any further processing, such an article is operable to soak oil or other hydrophobic liquid into its internal passages through its pores. Thus, in one embodiment, the dispensate is composed primarily of oil, having one or more tobacco-derived or tobacco-imitating ingredients entrained therein, and the porous plastic dispensing article is made by introducing the oil-based dispensate therein after a molding operation.

In other embodiments, a porous plastic member can be further treated after a molding operation to alter the hydrophobic characteristic. For example, ion bombardment processes can be used to make such a member hydrophilic. In still other embodiments, the dispensate can be composed primarily of water having one or more tobacco-derived or tobacco-imitating ingredients entrained therein, and the porous plastic dispensing member can be made by introducing the water-based dispensate therein after a molding operation and ion bombardment processing.

The concentration levels of tobacco related products, such as flavoring, nicotine, and/or menthol in the dispensate may vary in alternative embodiments. When created across multiple levels of concentration, the dispensate may be provided to gradually decrease a user's dependency on nicotine, for example, when the user is on a program for cessation of smokeless tobacco use. For example, at the beginning of the program, the user might desire a high concentration of nicotine, while at a later stage of the program, the concentration of the nicotine may be lowered to reflect a user's craving. Moreover, the dispensate may include one or more therapeutic agents, such as for example, an agent structured to lower a user's dependency on nicotine. Additionally, and/or alternatively, an agent structured to relieve pain, such as ibuprofen, may be included. When included, the concentrated levels of the therapeutic agents should be at a desired therapeutic dosage. Additionally, the dispensate may be created to comprise more or less of a certain therapeutic agent, so as to provide a variety of selections for a human user.

The present application also contemplates a packaged product that includes a mixture of a smokeless tobacco product and a synthetic smokeless tobacco substitute material. The ratio of synthetic smokeless tobacco substitute to smokeless tobacco in the mixed product can range from a very small fraction of synthetic material, such as, for example, about 1% synthetic material up to a fraction that is just slightly less than 100% synthetic material. By varying the ratio between tobacco material and synthetic material in the mixture, and by varying the content of the dispensate in the synthetic material, products having a wide variety of characteristics can be provided.

In still further aspects of the present application, there are provided methods for packaging tobacco products. For example, to make mixed products having varying characteritics, several different groups of synthetic smokeless tobacco substitute material comprising the dispensing members described herein can each be provided with different flavors or other features. A specific amount of plain and unflavored tobacco can be placed into a package, such as a pouch, tin or can, and a quantity of synthetic material having a desired flavor or other feature is added into the pouch, tin or can and optionally mixed with the plain tobacco to impart the desired flavor or other feature. As an example, an amount of plain tobacco could be mixed with dispensing members that include a cherry flavor to provide a cherry flavored tobacco product. It is contemplated that the tobacco and dispensing members could be mixed in any appropriate ratio to acquire the desired flavor. The dispensing members can also operate to deliver moisture to the smokeless tobacco with which they are packaged.

In yet another aspect of the application, methods for providing gradual user independence from a smokeless tobacco product are provided. In one embodiment, the method includes mixing a first amount of smokeless tobacco with a first amount of the dispensing members described herein and providing the same to a tobacco user. After a certain period of time has passed, a second amount of smokeless tobacco is mixed with a second amount of dispensing members and the same is provided to the tobacco user. In order to decrease dependency on the smokeless tobacco, the first ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members is greater than the second ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members. It is contemplated that the ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members may be continually decreased until the tobacco user is provided solely with the dispensing members. As an example, one program may include an initial ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members of 75:25. The next ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members is 50:50 while the following ratio is 25:75. The final ratio of smokeless tobacco to dispensing members is 0:100. In another embodiment, gradual user independence can be achieved by providing to the user synthetic smokeless tobacco substitute materials that feature reduced amounts of nicotine over time, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the user's craving for nicotine.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the selected embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes, modifications and equivalents that come within the spirit of the invention as defined herein or by any of the following claims are desired to be protected. Any theory, mechanism of operation, proof, or finding stated herein is meant to further enhance understanding of the present invention and is not intended to make the present invention in any way dependent upon such theory, mechanism of operation, proof, or finding. It should be understood that while the use of the word preferable, preferably or preferred in the description above indicates that the feature so described may be more desirable, it nonetheless may not be necessary and embodiments lacking the same may be contemplated as within the scope of the invention, that scope being defined by the claims that follow. In reading the claims it is intended that when words such as “a,” “an,” “at least one,” “at least a portion” are used there is no intention to limit the claim to only one item unless specifically stated to the contrary in the claim. Further, when the language “at least a portion” and/or “a portion” is used the item may include a portion and/or the entire item unless specifically stated to the contrary.