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Tobacco Candy Dangerous for Kids

orbs-camel-sm250With smoking bans in effect just about everywhere, those who want to light up are finding it harder and harder to to so.  But the ever-industrious tobacco industry has responded by creating a variety of smokeless tobacco products.  With these products, those who need a nicotine fix can get one anywhere, anytime with nary a puff of smoke.

But while smokeless tobacco products may seem harmless to those who don’t use them, a new study says they pose a very serious health risk to kids.  The new study, conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and published this week in the journal Pediatrics, warns that smokeless tobacco products can – and do – lead to unintentional poisoning of young children.  Because little kids are indiscriminate when it comes to putting things in their mouths, this means all nicotine products pose a risk.  But the Camel Orb, they say, is particularly dangerous because it looks very much like something most kids love:  Candy.

Shaped like a Tic Tac and packaged in a similar container, these cinnamon and mint flavored nicotine hits could be easily confused for a sweet treat by a small child.  R.J. Reynolds, who makes Orbs as well as nicotine strips and sticks, say the products are safe because the packaging is “child resistant.” But what if the package is left open?  According to experts, if a 4-year-old were to ingest a handful (13 to 21 orbs or four sticks), he could potentially suffer fatal nicotine poisoning.  For a 1-year-old, as few as 8 orbs or three sticks could be deadly.

The dangers of smokeless tobacco aren’t limited to little kids, either.  The brightly colored packages and sweet flavors are also attracting older kids.   The same study found that from 2002 to 2006, the use of smokeless tobacco products among adolescents increased 6 percent per year.  In fact, according to Terry F. Pechacek, Ph.D, one of the study’s authors, half of all first-time users of smokeless tobacco products are under the age of 18.

Because tobacco is a drug, it is up to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate such products.  Do you think the potential hazards associated with smokeless tobacco products warrant an outright ban?

Image: Harvard School of Public Health

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