When is a tiny, mint-flavored tablet that dissolves in the mouth not a breath mint? When it’s a Camel Orb “dissolvable tobacco” pellet, that’s when. And that has health advocates — who worry that children may mistake the nicotine pills for candy — smoking mad.
According to a study published today in the journal Pediatrics, Orbs, and similar products being test-marketed by R. J. Reynolds, are “a major concern, with their discreet form, candy-like appearance, and added ï¬‚avorings that may be attractive to young children.” Speaking to The New York Times, the study’s lead author, Gregory N. Connolly of the Tobacco Control Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health, added: “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and to make it look like a piece of candy is recklessly playing with the health of children.” According to the study, there were nearly 7,000 tobacco-related poisoning cases involving children under five in 2007.
The tablets are being marketed by Reynolds as an alternative to going tobacco-free in places where smoking is off-limits. A Reynolds spokesman, David Howard, told The Times that fears of tobacco poisoning are overblown: “Virtually every household has products that could be hazardous to children, like cleaning supplies, medicines, health and beauty products, and you compare that to 20 to 25 percent of households that use tobacco products,” he said, provoking a response from Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium. “The difference here is that kids potentially will be watching grown-ups ingesting these products,” he said. “The last time I checked, we don’t have adults drinking toilet bowl cleanser in front of their kids.”
The argument may become moot within two years, which is when the Food and Drug Administration is required to complete a study on dissolvable tobacco products. At that point, the agency could ban or severely limit their sale. In the meantime, if these things really sound appealing to you, keep them away from the kids. And, while you’re at it, lay off the toilet bowl cleanser, too.