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Publication numberUS20080210249 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/713,214
Publication dateSep 4, 2008
Filing dateMar 2, 2007
Priority dateMar 2, 2007
Also published asWO2008109046A1
Publication number11713214, 713214, US 2008/0210249 A1, US 2008/210249 A1, US 20080210249 A1, US 20080210249A1, US 2008210249 A1, US 2008210249A1, US-A1-20080210249, US-A1-2008210249, US2008/0210249A1, US2008/210249A1, US20080210249 A1, US20080210249A1, US2008210249 A1, US2008210249A1
InventorsRobert S. Luzenberg
Original AssigneeLuzenberg Robert S
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Systems, devices and methods for delivering one or more additives to smokeless tobacco
US 20080210249 A1
Abstract
Provided are systems, devices and methods that utilize porous plastic dispensing articles for delivering one or more additives to a smokeless tobacco product. A porous plastic article for dispensing one or more additives, such as, for example, flavorings, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements, water or combinations thereof, is placed into contact with a quantity of smokeless tobacco, for example, in a re-sealable smokeless tobacco container.
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Claims(25)
1. A packaged smokeless tobacco product, comprising:
a container defining a chamber for holding smokeless tobacco;
a quantity of smokeless tobacco positioned within said chamber; and
a porous plastic dispensing article positioned within said chamber, the article comprising (1) a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defining pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages, and (2) a dispensate residing within the passages;
wherein the article is operable to release at least a portion of the dispensate into the smokeless tobacco.
2. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein said article is in contact with said tobacco.
3. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein said container includes a body and a lid, the body having a lid-receiving portion and the lid having a body-engaging portion for sealingly cooperating with the lid-receiving portion.
4. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said article is attached to a member selected from the group consisting of said lid and said body.
5. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said article is frictionally attached to said lid.
6. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said lid has an interior surface and comprises a plurality of retention brackets extending from said interior surface; and wherein said article is attached to said lid by said retention brackets.
7. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said lid has an interior surface and comprises at least one flange extending from said interior surface; and wherein said article is frictionally attached to said lid by contact with said at least one flange.
8. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said container has an interior surface and comprises a plurality of retention brackets extending from said interior surface; and wherein said article is attached to said container by said retention brackets.
9. The product in accordance with claim 3 wherein said container has an interior surface and comprises at least one flange extending from said interior surface; and wherein said article is frictionally attached to said container by contact with said at least one flange.
10. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the pores have an average size of from about 20 microns to about 200 microns.
11. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the pores have an average size of from about 40 microns to about 150 microns.
12. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the pores have an average size of from about 134 microns to about 144 microns.
13. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the dispensate comprises an aqueous fluid.
14. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the dispensate comprises a non-aqueous fluid.
15. The product in accordance with claim 14 wherein the non-aqueous fluid is selected from the group consisting of a gas and an oil.
16. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the dispensate comprises a member selected from the group consisting of a flavoring, a pharmaceutical, a nutritional supplement, caffeine, a dietary supplement, water and combinations thereof.
17. The product in accordance with claim 16 wherein the flavoring is a member selected from the group consisting of wintergreen flavoring, cherry flavoring and mint flavoring.
18. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the matrix comprises a thermoplastic polymer.
19. The product in accordance with claim 18 wherein the thermoplastic polymer comprises a member selected from the group consisting of polypropylene and polyethylene.
20. The product in accordance with claim 18 wherein the thermoplastic polymer comprises polyethylene.
21. The product in accordance with claim 1 wherein the article comprises a disk shape.
22. A method for introducing a dispensate into a quantity of smokeless tobacco, comprising:
providing an article comprising a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defining pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages, wherein a dispensate is positioned within the passages; and
contacting the exposed surface of the article to a quantity of smokeless tobacco to cause the dispensate to be released into the tobacco.
23. The method in accordance with claim 22 wherein said contacting comprises placing the article and the tobacco in a container for a period of time effective to cause a desired amount of dispensate to be dispensed into the tobacco.
24. An article for introducing a dispensate into a smokeless tobacco product, comprising:
a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defining pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages; and
a dispensate residing within the passages;
wherein said article is operable to contain said dispensate within the passages until the exposed surface of said article contacts a quantity of smokeless tobacco, and then to release at least a portion of the dispensate into the smokeless tobacco.
25. The article in accordance with claim 24 wherein said article is positioned in a container in contact with said tobacco.
Description
BACKGROUND

The present invention relates generally to systems, devices and methods that utilize porous plastic dispensing articles for delivering one or more additives to a smokeless tobacco product. More particularly, but not exclusively, the invention relates to porous plastic articles for dispensing one or more additives, such as, for example, flavorings, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements, water or combinations thereof, into a quantity of smokeless tobacco that is put into a container in contact with the article.

The term “smokeless tobacco” is used herein to refer to tobacco that is prepared, packaged and sold in a moist form, and that is used by a consumer by positioning the tobacco into 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, typically referred to as “chewing tobacco,” are commonly placed by a user in his or her cheek. Other forms of smokeless tobacco, typically referred to as “snuff” or “finecut” moist smokeless tobacco or “dip” tobacco, are 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 snuff or finecut or dip tobacco that is placed in small saliva-permeable pouches, and are retained in the small pouches during use. A common type of smokeless tobacco that is provided in this form is commonly identified as BANDITS™. Such smokeless tobacco pouches are encompassed within the meaning of the term “smokeless tobacco.”

Protocols used in the prior art to process and package smokeless tobacco include many steps that involve significant cost. One aspect of processing and packaging smokeless tobacco that adds to the overall cost of its manufacture involves the addition of flavorings to the tobacco. In this regard, smokeless tobacco users have come to expect and enjoy a wide variety of different tobacco flavors, such as, for example, wintergreen, cherry, mint and the like, as well as multiple custom flavors that are unique to various manufacturers. Not only does tobacco flavoring itself add to the cost of processing and packaging the product, but in addition, each different flavor must be uniquely packaged and labeled, thus adding further to the cost of these products. There is a strong motivation to reduce the manufacturing cost for smokeless tobacco products and, accordingly, there is a continuing need for further contribution in the technology used in the process.

In addition, it is well known that smokeless tobacco retains its optimum freshness and desirability only while it remains sufficiently moist. Indeed, when smokeless tobacco products are exposed to ambient conditions for an extended period, the moisture level thereof quickly falls (i.e., the tobacco becomes dried out) to a level that is undesirable. When such a circumstance arises, the product typically must be discarded and replaced. In view of these circumstances, great care is taken by tobacco manufacturers to make certain that containers holding smokeless tobacco products are well sealed prior to shipment into channels of trade, and that the containers are constructed in a manner whereby they can be easily re-sealed in a relatively air-tight manner after the original seal is broken. Most smokeless tobacco products referred to as “snuff” or “finecut” or “dip” tobacco are packaged and sold in circular cardboard and metal or molded plastic cans having a paper seal enclosing them prior to purchase and use by a consumer. This type of container is commonly referred to as a “can” or “tin.” When a user desires to use the product, the paper seal is broken, the top of the can removed, and the desired amount of smokeless tobacco removed for enjoyment. The lid is then replaced on the can until further use is desired.

Most smokeless tobacco products referred to as “chewing tobacco” are packaged and sold in a flexible container commonly referred to as a “pouch.” Such pouches are also constructed in a manner to allow for an air-tight seal to prevent loss of moisture during shipment and storage, and to allow for re-sealing after the initial seal is broken.

A problem often encountered when goods are packaged and stored in only temporary or intermittent moisture-tight conditions is that, after the moisture seal is broken, the goods undesirably can suffer excessive loss of moisture. For example, smokeless tobacco containers, once opened, are subject to frequent opening and closing. Even if the container is well sealed while closed, the moisture equilibrium inside the container is disturbed with each opening and must be re-established after each time the container is opened and closed. Specifically, each time a package is opened, the air in the container that has a relatively high moisture content is replaced with ambient air, which typically has a relatively lower moisture content. Thus, after the container is re-closed, moisture diffuses from the moist tobacco into the dry air in the container to re-establish moisture equilibrium in the container. This has the consequences of causing the moisture level of the tobacco to decrease toward an unacceptable level. Dealing with the problem of moisture loss adds significantly to the cost of manufacturing smokeless tobacco products because only small containers can be satisfactorily used when packaging smokeless tobacco. Only a limited number of cycles of opening and closing a package can occur before the tobacco therein becomes unacceptably dry, and packaging the product in larger packages would likely result in significant waste.

In light of the above, there is a continuing need for improvements in the manner by which packaged smokeless tobacco is kept from becoming too dry and there is also a continuing need for improvements in the manner by which flavoring is added to tobacco. The present invention addresses these needs, and also provides other advantages.

SUMMARY

The present invention addresses these needs by providing methods, systems and devices for introducing one or more additives into smokeless tobacco. The term “additive” is used herein to refer to a composition to be introduced into a quantity of smokeless tobacco, whether by being absorbed by the tobacco, adsorbed to the tobacco, mixed with the tobacco, or otherwise. Indeed, an advantageous aspect of the invention is that the principles of the invention can be used to deliver a wide variety of compositions to the smokeless tobacco, not limited to flavorings and water. Examples of additives contemplated by the invention include, but are not limited to, flavorings, water, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements, or combinations thereof. An additive, also referred to herein as a “dispensate,” may be introduced into tobacco in accordance with the invention by simply placing the smokeless tobacco into contact with an inventive dispensing article and allowing the additive to wick from the article into the tobacco. The porous plastic material of which inventive articles are made defines a network of internal passages in fluid communication with pores on exposed surfaces of the article. The passages advantageously contain a dispensate and are operable to introduce the dispensate into a quantity of smokeless tobacco that contacts the article, i.e., smokeless tobacco that is packaged together with the article in a smokeless tobacco container.

In one advantageous form of the invention, the additive is water that is dispensed to the smokeless tobacco when necessary to maintain a desired level of moisture in the tobacco. In this way, the inventive article can act as a source and/or sink for moisture in the tobacco container. In another form of the invention, the article can be used to deliver a flavoring to the tobacco. In still other forms, the invention provides an excellent manner of delivering one or more other beneficial ingredients to consumers who use smokeless tobacco by using the tobacco as a delivery vehicle. This can be accomplished by introducing the one or more beneficial ingredients into the smokeless tobacco, which will operate as a carrier for the ingredient until a portion of the tobacco is put in the user's mouth, at which time the beneficial ingredient is delivered into the user's bloodstream by diffusion through his or her oral cavity membranes and into his or her bloodstream. In this way, medicaments, vitamins or other nutrients, herbal extracts or other dietary supplements, or the like, can be delivered to a smokeless tobacco user by providing same as a dispensate in an inventive article and then contacting the article to a quantity of smokeless tobacco to deliver the beneficial ingredient to the tobacco.

In one aspect of the invention, there is provided an article for introducing a dispensate into a smokeless tobacco product. The article includes a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defining pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages; and a dispensate residing within the passages. The article is operable to contain the dispensate within the passages until the exposed surface of the article contacts a quantity of smokeless tobacco, and then to release at least a portion of the dispensate into the smokeless tobacco. The article can advantageously be positioned in a container in contact with the tobacco.

In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for introducing a dispensate into a quantity of smokeless tobacco. The method includes: (1) providing an article comprising a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defining pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages, wherein a dispensate is positioned within the passages; and (2) contacting the exposed surface of the article to a quantity of smokeless tobacco to cause the dispensate to be released into the tobacco. In one preferred manner of practicing the method, the contacting comprises placing the article and the tobacco in a container for a period of time effective to cause a desired amount of dispensate to be dispensed into the tobacco.

Still another aspect of the present invention is a packaged smokeless tobacco product that includes a sealable container defining a chamber for holding smokeless tobacco, a quantity of smokeless tobacco positioned within the chamber, and a porous plastic dispensing article positioned within the chamber. The article comprises a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages and defines pores on the exposed surface of the matrix in fluid communication with the passages. A dispensate resides within the passages, and the article is operable to release at least a portion of the dispensate into the smokeless tobacco. The article is preferably in contact with the tobacco.

In one preferred embodiment, the container includes a body and a lid, the body having a lid-receiving portion and the lid having a body-engaging portion for sealingly cooperating with the lid-receiving portion. In this embodiment, the article can alternatively be attached to the lid or the body. In one preferred embodiment, the article is frictionally attached to the lid. In one manner of attaching the article to the lid of a container, the lid is formed to include a plurality of retention brackets extending from the lid's interior surface, and the article is attached to the lid by the retention brackets. In another manner of attaching the article to the lid of a container, the lid is formed to include at least one flange extending from the lid's interior surface, and the article is frictionally attached to the lid by contact with the at least one flange. In another preferred embodiment, the article is attached to the container body. In one manner of attaching the article to the body of a container, the body is formed to include a plurality of retention brackets extending from its interior surface, and the article is attached to the container by the retention brackets. In another manner of attaching the article to the body of a container, the body is formed to include at least one flange extending from its interior surface, and the article is frictionally attached to the container by contact with the at least one flange. In still yet another preferred embodiment, the article is not attached to the container.

In one embodiment, the porous plastic matrix comprises a thermoplastic polymer. In another embodiment, the thermoplastic polymer comprises a member selected from the group consisting of polypropylene and polyethylene. In another embodiment, the thermoplastic polymer comprises polyethylene. In certain preferred 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 preferred embodiments, the pores have an average size of from about 40 microns to about 150 microns. In yet other preferred embodiments, the pores have an average size of from about 134 microns to about 144 microns. While it is not intended that the invention be limited by any particular shape for the article, in certain preferred embodiments, the article comprises a disk shape.

In one preferred embodiment, the dispensate comprises an aqueous fluid. In another preferred embodiment, the dispensate comprises a non-aqueous fluid. The non-aqueous fluid can be selected, for example, from the group consisting of a gas and an oil. The dispensate can comprise, for example, a member selected from the group consisting of a flavoring, a pharmaceutical, a nutritional supplement, caffeine, a dietary supplement, water and combinations thereof. Where the dispensate includes a flavoring, excellent examples of flavorings that can be selected for use in accordance with the invention include wintergreen flavoring, cherry flavoring and mint flavoring.

It is an object of the invention to provide new methods, systems and devices for delivering one or more additives to smokeless tobacco using a porous plastic dispensing article.

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

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

Although the characteristic features of this invention 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 an exploded perspective view of a smokeless tobacco container that can be used in accordance with one aspect of the invention, the container including a container body and a lid.

FIG. 2 is a partial cross-sectional perspective view of the container that is depicted in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a dispensing article.

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of a smokeless tobacco container lid and a dispensing article in accordance with one aspect of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a partial cross-sectional perspective view of a lid in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 is an exploded perspective view of a smokeless tobacco container body and a dispensing article in accordance with one aspect of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a partial cross-sectional perspective view of a container body in accordance with an other embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a smokeless tobacco pouch that can be used in accordance with another aspect of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the pouch of FIG. 8 in a partially closed position.

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the pouch of FIG. 8 in a closed position.

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.

Provided by the present invention are novel methods, systems and devices for delivering one or more additives such as, for example, but without limitation, flavorings, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements, water or combinations thereof into a quantity of smokeless tobacco, for subsequent delivery to, or for enjoyment by, a user of the smokeless tobacco product.

In accordance with the invention, one or more selected additives can be delivered into the tobacco by first positioning the ingredient(s) in an inventive article, and then positioning the article together with smokeless tobacco in a container. There are presently available in the marketplace a wide variety of smokeless tobacco products which have various flavorings, and which have moisture levels that are optimized to provide a product having optimal freshness when ultimately used by an end user. The present invention provides an advantageous article for placement in a container for holding smokeless tobacco, or for forming a part of such a container, which functions to dispense one or more additives, such as, for example, flavorings, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements water or combinations thereof into a smokeless tobacco product, for delivery to, or for enjoyment by, a user of the smokeless tobacco product.

As mentioned above, the type of tobacco commonly referred to as snuff, finecut or dipping tobacco is typically provided to consumers in a re-sealable container referred to as a can or a tin. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, representative container 10 is a sealable container including container body 12 and lid 16. Container body 12 defines a chamber for holding a quantity of smokeless tobacco 20. Container body 12 is typically made of plastic, but can alternatively be made of cardboard or other suitable material. Lid 16 is also typically made of plastic, but can alternatively be made of metal or other suitable materials. Container body 12 includes lid-receiving portion 14 that is configured to receive and engage body-engaging portion 18 of lid 16, which is likewise configured to cooperate with and engage lid-receiving portion 14 of container body 12 to releasably and sealingly close container 10.

As used herein, terms such as “sealingly,” “sealable,” “sealably,” “seal” and the like are used to refer to a feature of a container whereby it is operable to be closed in a fashion that prevents excessive diffusion of moisture from the container. While it is understood that a modest rate of loss of water vapor from the container can be accepted, if the rate of moisture loss exceeds a certain threshold, the tobacco in the container can quickly become unacceptably dry. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, lid-receiving portion 14 of body 12 and body-engaging portion 18 of lid 16 are configured to sealingly cooperate with one another in a manner that prevents excessive loss of moisture from container 10 when body 12 and lid 16 are engaged to one another.

In a like manner, a pouch for containing chewing tobacco is also desirably configured to be sealingly closed. For example, with reference to FIG. 8, pouch 40 includes creases 42 a, 42 b, 44 a, 44 b, which can be folded to achieve an acceptable seal. FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional end view of pouch 40 in which creases 42 a and 42 b are folded together as a first step in sealing pouch 40. FIG. 10 depicts the same pouch after creases 44 a and 44 b have been brought together and folded together as a second step in sealing pouch 40. When pouch 40 is made of conventional materials, this folded configuration provides a suitable seal for pouch 40.

In one preferred manner of practicing the invention, a porous plastic dispensing article, such as article 30 depicted in FIG. 3, is placed together with a quantity of smokeless tobacco in a container, such as container 10 or pouch 40, to reside therein in contact with the smokeless tobacco. Article 30 can be attached to lid 16 or container body 12. Alternatively, article 30 can be placed “loose” in the container, i.e., placed in but not attached to the container. In one exemplary manner of attaching article 30 to lid 16, depicted in FIG. 4, retaining brackets 17 are configured to hold article 30 to lid 16. In an alternative manner of attaching article 30 to lid 16, depicted in FIG. 5, lid 16 includes a retention flange 19, and article 30 is sized to fit snugly into lid 16 such that at least a portion of the outer perimeter of article 30 seats in and engages retention flange 19 of lid 16 to releasably connect article 30 to lid 16. As such, article 30 can be snapped into place by pressing article 30 into lid 16, and article 30 is held in place by frictional forces. Retention flange 19 can extend along the entire perimeter of article 30, or can engage only a portion of article 30. It is, of course, understood that the location of retention flange 19 will depend upon the desired size and shape of article 30. Of course, an adhesive can also optionally be used to make the connection more permanent, if desired.

In another embodiment, article 30 is attached to container body 12. In one exemplary manner of attaching article 30 to container body 12, depicted in FIG. 7, retaining brackets 13 are configured to hold article 30 to container body 12. In an alternative manner of attaching article 30 to container body 12, depicted in FIG. 7, container body 12 includes a retention flange 15, and article 30 is sized to fit snugly into container body 12 such that at least a portion of the outer perimeter of article 30 seats in and engages retention flange 15 of container body 12 to releasably connect article 30 to container body 12. As such, article 30 can be snapped into place by pressing article 30 into container body 12, and article 30 is held in place by frictional forces. Retention flange 15 can extend along the entire perimeter of article 30, or can engage only a portion of article 30. It is, of course, understood that the location of retention flange 15 will depend upon the desired size and shape of article 30. Of course, an adhesive can also optionally be used to make the connection more permanent, if desired.

Dispensing article 30 preferably comprises a porous plastic matrix, which contains within the matrix a material that is operable to wick from the matrix under appropriate conditions. The material preferably remains within the matrix until conditions occur that cause it to wick out of the article and into a quantity of smokeless tobacco that is in contact with an exposed surface of the matrix, or into air present in the container. The material, termed herein as “dispensate” or “dispensate material” may be one of a wide variety of substances that are releasable into smokeless tobacco contacting the article under appropriate conditions.

In certain preferred embodiments described herein, the “dipensate” or “dispensate material” is water, and the article is used to maintain a desired moisture level in a container of smokeless tobacco. In one mode of operation, the water remains within the matrix until it wicks to an exposed surface of the article and evaporates into the air present in the container, thus increasing the moisture content of the air. It is readily seen that, in this embodiment, the fluid into which the dispensate wicks is the air present in the container. In another mode of operation, the article is placed into direct contact with the smokeless tobacco, and the water wicks out of the article and directly into tobacco particles. It is, of course, not intended that the present invention be limited by any theory whereby it achieves its advantageous result.

With respect to the delivery of a flavoring to tobacco, one significant advantage of the invention is that it may be used to flavor tobacco any of a wide variety of flavors after it has been packaged in a single container, and therefore has the potential to greatly simplify smokeless tobacco processing steps. For example, the present invention provides for the delivery of flavoring to a given tobacco product in the container in which the tobacco is packaged for sale. Therefore, tobacco products having a wide variety of flavors can be prepared and packaged using common processes that diverge only at the point the tobacco product is placed into the packaging material, which includes an inventive dispensing article configured and loaded to deliver a flavoring to the tobacco while it resides in the container. This reduces the complexity, and thus the cost, of pre-packaging processing steps.

Also, substances other than flavorings can be added to a tobacco product using the principles of the invention. Inventive articles may be advantageously used, for example, to dispense beneficial ingredients into a quantity of smokeless tobacco, such as a packaged tobacco product, for delivery to, or for enjoyment by, a user of the smokeless tobacco product. As used herein, the term “beneficial ingredients” is used to refer to additives that are desired to be delivered to the user of the tobacco, such as, for example, pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, caffeine, other dietary supplements, or combinations thereof. In the case of a pharmaceutical, the pharmaceutical can be introduced into the smokeless tobacco product in an amount whereby each portion of the tobacco that is placed in a user's mouth is capable of providing a predetermined single-unit dose of medicine to the user in a time-release manner. For example, in one form, an article for dispensing pharmaceuticals may be used to dispense medicines, such as, for example, pain relievers and fever reducers (e.g., acetaminophen), antihistamines (e.g., chloropheniramine maleate), nasal decongestants (e.g., pseudoephedrine HCl), cough suppressants (e.g., dextromethorphan HBr) and/or other cold and/or flu medicines in a desired dosage as a tobacco user enjoys a pinch or wad of the tobacco in the usual manner.

One advantage of attaching article 30 to lid 16 in certain aspects of the present invention that involve delivering flavoring or other beneficial ingredients to smokeless tobacco is that there is great potential for reducing the manufacturing costs of the product. In such embodiments, all components of the packaged smokeless tobacco assembly other than then lid can be made using existing manufacturing processes. In other words, it is possible to make diverse products, i.e., products that have different flavors, different medicaments, different dietary supplements, and different combinations thereof, such that the only differences between the products are the composition of the dispensate in the porous plastic dispensing article attached to the lid, and the information printed on the label attached to the lid.

It will be readily understood that the rate at which dispensate will enter the tobacco from an inventive dispensing article depends upon several factors. Likewise, several factors are involved in the establishment of conditions whereby a dispensate will wick from the article to the tobacco at all. For example, where the dispensate is water, the rate at which the water leaves the article will depend upon the moisture content of the smokeless tobacco in the container and/or the atmosphere in the container. If the tobacco and the atmosphere in the container have high moisture content, the water is expected to wick out of the article very slowly or not at all. On the other hand, if the tobacco and the atmosphere in the container have low moisture content, the water in the article is expected to wick out of the article and into the tobacco more quickly.

The invention contemplates in one aspect that an inventive article, loaded with water, is packaged together with a quantity of tobacco that is already at an optimal moisture content. In such an assembly, the article would release the water at only a slow rate, or not at all under these initial conditions. Over time, however, as the packaged product is shipped and/or stored prior to its ultimate end use by a consumer, the tobacco can lose moisture by seepage thereof from the container. Moisture loss occurs at an even greater rate after a consumer first breaks the manufacturer's seal on the container and opens the container. It is readily understood that the opening of the container results in moisture loss as a portion of the moist air trapped in the container is released into the environment and replaced by ambient air, which has a lower moisture content. After the container is closed, some moisture leaves the tobacco and enters the new air in the container as moisture equilibrium is again established between the tobacco and the air by evaporation and/or diffusion of moisture into the air. Such loss of moisture from the container occurs more rapidly as the container is repeatedly opened and closed, and as the quantity of moist tobacco in the container decreases. As the container is repeatedly opened and closed over time and the moisture level of the tobacco resultantly decreases, it is expected that the rate at which water is delivered to the tobacco from the dispensing article in accordance with the invention will increase.

As will be appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in the art, it is possible for conditions to occur in a container holding a quantity of smokeless tobacco and a dispensing article in accordance with the invention whereby water wicks from the tobacco into the porous plastic dispensing article. For example, in one manner of utilizing the advantageous characteristics of an inventive porous plastic dispensing article, the article can be provided in the container “empty,” i.e., without having any dispensate pre-loaded therein. It is readily understood that, if the container is also loaded with a quantity of moist smokeless tobacco, some of the moisture is likely to wick into the article. This phenomenon can be utilized in certain aspects of the invention by intentionally providing in a container an empty article, and a quantity of smokeless tobacco that has been loaded with excess moisture. Thus, after the components are loaded together into the container and the container is sealed, the article and the tobacco reach an equilibrium by wicking of water from the tobacco into the porous plastic dispensing article to “load” the article. The moisture is then available in the article to be dispensed back into the tobacco or into the atmosphere in the container as the tobacco loses moisture over time. Thus, it is readily understood that an inventive porous plastic dispensing article can be loaded after placement in a smokeless tobacco container as an alternative to aspects of the invention in which the article is pre-loaded. In this way, the article can act as a “moisture source” and/or a “moisture sink” in the container, depending upon the moisture content of the tobacco in the container.

The invention also contemplates that it could become necessary to “re-load” an inventive dispensing article with water. For example, if a quantity of smokeless tobacco in a container remains unused for a significant length of time after the seal of the container is broken, the moisture content of the tobacco can decrease to an undesirable level. The invention contemplates that this condition can be remedied by adding water to the container and closing the container to allow the tobacco and the article in the container to again reach moisture equilibrium. This has the result of increasing the moisture content of the tobacco to a desired level, and re-loading the article with moisture to restore the moisture source/sink functionality

In an alternative aspect of the invention, a dispensing article need not be configured for attachment to a container, lid or the like. In this embodiment, the article may be used by simply placing the article into a container. For example, such an article may simply be placed into a container, either before or after a quantity of smokeless tobacco is placed into the container. When the tobacco contacts the article, and the conditions are suitable, the dispensate is introduced into the tobacco.

While a certain shape of a preferred inventive article is shown in the drawings, it is not intended that the invention be limited to any particular shape. Rather, a wide variety of alternate shapes and sizes are contemplated by the invention. In addition to the shape, or “macrostructure,” of an inventive article, another important aspect of the invention is the internal structure, or “microstructure,” of an inventive article. An inventive article comprises a porous plastic matrix defining an internal network of passages. The matrix further comprises “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 an inventive article with which smokeless tobacco, air or other fluid comes into contact. Stated alternatively, an exposed surface is defined with respect to an article's macrostructure as a surface which defines the shape of the article and which generally defines the boundary between the article and its environment, whether or not the surface is visible from a point external of the article.

An “internal passage” or an “internal network of passages” refers to the compositional microstructure of an inventive article, and refers to spaces defined internally, i.e., within the porous plastic matrix. As is readily understood by a person skilled in the relevant art, characteristics of internal passages may be varied by varying, for example, the size of granule materials used to make inventive articles and/or the temperature and/or the pressure used in a molding process for making the article, as discussed further below.

An inventive article is prepared in accordance with the invention such that a porous plastic matrix, having a network of internal, interconnected passages therein, holds a dispensate material until a quantity of smokeless tobacco comes into contact with an exposed surface of the article, and conditions are proper for the dispensate material to wick through the surface of the article and into the tobacco.

Inventive porous plastic dispensing articles can be made in two distinct ways. Most commonly, particularly when the dispensate is water or other fluid, whether aqueous, non-aqueous or gaseous, the dispensing article can 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 as described herein. A liquid dispensate is then introduced into the internal passages of the formed article, for example, by placing the article in a substantial vacuum and then immersing the article in a batch of liquid dispensate so that the dispensate flows through the pores and into the internal network of passages. Having introduced the liquid dispensate into the article in this manner, the article may then be advantageously used as described herein to dispense the liquid into a quantity of smokeless tobacco that comes into contact with the article. It is also understood that an inventive article that has become spent, i.e., in which the dispensate has been exhausted, may advantageously be recharged with a liquid dispensate as described. Normal usage of an inventive article as described herein does not substantially alter the advantageous internal structure of the porous plastic matrix.

Alternatively, in embodiments in which the dispensate can be provided in solid particulate form, an inventive porous plastic dispensing article can be made by mixing a granular thermoplastic polymer with the dry dispensate 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 invention, the selected dispensate is a non-aqueous liquid that remains stable under processing conditions necessary to form a porous plastic article in accordance with the invention. In this aspect of the invention, an inventive dispensing article may be made by mixing the liquid dispensate material with thermoplastic polymer granules prior to molding, or a granular thermoplastic polymer may be molded in the absence of a dispensate material and the liquid dispensate then introduced into the internal passages.

The polymer may be one of a wide variety of thermoplastic polymers available commercially; however, as the polymer is intended to come into contact with smokeless tobacco, it is understood that the polymer is preferably one that satisfies relevant safety requirements. The dispensate may be one of a wide variety of substances available commercially. For example, the dispensate may be a flavoring, a pharmaceutical, a nutritional supplement, caffeine or other dietary supplement, or water. It is understood that the dispensate selected for use may also be a combination of the above, such as, for example, a flavored dose of medicine or caffeinated water.

In one manner of making a preferred dispensing article in accordance with the invention, a granular thermoplastic polymer is provided. The polymer granules thus provided are then molded at a preselected temperature and pressure to make an inventive article. A wide variety of molding techniques may be used in accordance with inventive methods, such techniques being known in the art. While it is not intended that the present invention be limited by any theory by which it achieves its advantageous 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 that 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 (if present), dispensate powder particle size distribution (if present) and ratio of polymer to dispensate (if present) may be used in accordance with the invention to provide articles having various advantageous characteristics. In addition, a wide variety of process parameters (such as temperature and pressure) may be used in accordance with the invention to provide articles having various advantageous characteristics. For example, inventive articles may be made in accordance with the invention that have differing rates of introduction of dispensates into a quantity of smokeless tobacco. 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 description of the present invention, to select, without undue experimentation, advantageous combinations of materials and parameters in accordance with the invention to provide articles having differing rates of dispensate release.

To provide articles in accordance with the invention 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 article holds) and/or in which the dimensions of the internal passages and the pores differ (thereby varying the rate at which the dispensate wicks from the article into a quantity of smokeless tobacco). Dimensions of the internal passages and of the pores of an inventive article 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 inventive articles are molded, and/or by varying the ratio of polymer granules to dispensate powder in a mixture to be molded into an inventive article. In a preferred aspect of the invention, the pores have an average size of from about 20 to about 200 microns. More preferably, the pores have an average size of from about 40 microns to about 150 microns, and most preferably, from about 134 microns to about 144 microns. It is understood that the dimensions of the internal passages will have a direct correlation to the sizes of the pores.

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, M. A. Industries, Inc., Peachtree, Ga.; Porex Technologies Corp, Fairburn, Ga.; Gen Pore, Inc., Redding, Pa.; and Innerflow, Inc., New York, N.Y. It is within the skill of employees of these companies to vary dispensing characteristics in accordance with the invention without undue experimentation.

Thermoplastic polymer granules used to make an inventive article preferably have a size distribution wherein at least about 90% of the granules are between about 30 and about 120 mesh. More preferably, at least about 90% of the granules are between about 50 and about 100 mesh, and most preferably, 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 inventive article, a larger granule size may preferably be selected and, where it is desired that the powder be dispensed more slowly, a smaller granule size may preferably be selected.

It is important in inventive 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 invention, 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 article, the points of adhesion become strengthened to provide a relatively strong bond. Thus, where the ratio of polymer granules to dispensate particles (if present) is sufficiently high, there exist sufficient points of contact to provide an article having good tensile strength and powdering/crumbling resistance. It is understood that an article 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 important in the practice of the invention to avoid a molding temperature or pressure that is too high or too low. In the case of the former (i.e., excessive temperature and/or pressure), the article may become overly compacted, thereby causing the polymer to encase the dispensate powder (if present), 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 article. Where the temperature and/or pressure is too low, the resulting molded article might not have adequate tensile strength and, therefore, might have a tendency to crumble or break apart.

For purposes of efficiency in making an inventive article, it is preferred that the polymer selected for use in accordance with the invention have a melting temperature of from about 115° F. to about 415° F., more preferably from about 190° F. to about 340° F. and most preferably from about 240° F. to about 290° F. In accordance with one preferred aspect of the invention, the thermoplastic polymer used to make an inventive article is polyethylene. A polyethylene material which may advantageously be used in accordance with the invention is HOLTALEN GHR 8020, which is commercially available from Hoechst AG, Werk Ruhrchemie, D-46128 Oberhausen.

It is understood that, where it is desired that the dispensate be dispensed relatively quickly from an inventive article, a lower temperature and/or pressure may preferably 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 preferably be selected. It is also understood that the use of other advantageous thermoplastic polymers, such as, for example, polypropylene, may result in a different preferred range of temperatures and pressures. It is within the purview of a skilled artisan to determine the preferred ranges of temperature and pressure for a given thermoplastic polymer based upon the principles of the invention.

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.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7819124Jan 23, 2007Oct 26, 2010U.S. Smokeless Tobacco CompanyTobacco articles and methods
US7913699Jan 23, 2007Mar 29, 2011U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company LlcTobacco articles and methods
US7918231Jan 23, 2007Apr 5, 2011U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company LlcTobacco articles and methods
US8387623Dec 30, 2009Mar 5, 2013U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company LlcSmokeless tobacco articles
US8627826Oct 11, 2010Jan 14, 2014U.S. Smokeless Tobacco CompanyTobacco articles and methods
US8627827Apr 1, 2011Jan 14, 2014U.S. Smokeless Tobacco CompanyTobacco articles
EP2446756A1 *Oct 24, 2011May 2, 2012British American Tobacco (Investments) LimitedMethod and apparatus for introducing additives to smokeless tobacco products
WO2010078437A1 *Dec 30, 2009Jul 8, 2010U.S. Smokeless Tobacco CompanySmokeless tobacco articles
WO2012154543A1 *May 4, 2012Nov 15, 2012Altria Client Services Inc.Apparatus and method for staining a tobacco pouch product
Classifications
U.S. Classification131/352
International ClassificationA24B15/00
Cooperative ClassificationA24B15/282, A24B13/00, A24F23/02
European ClassificationA24B15/28B2, A24F23/02, A24B13/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 19, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: GP TECHNOLOGIES, INC., FLORIDA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LUZENBERG, ROBERT S., JR.;REEL/FRAME:019452/0437
Effective date: 20070606