Nicotine Endangers Kids

HSPH study links new nicotine candy to potentially fatal outcomes

A new nicotine product that resembles candy has come under scrutiny for being linked to poisoning in young children.

According to a study conducted in part by the Harvard School of Public Health, infants are enticed by the sweet taste and candy-like appearance of Camel Orbs—but if ingested, the pellet can lead to poisoning and even death.

Released last year by the R.J. Reynolds Company, the dissolvable product contains one milligram of nicotine per pellet, and the Camel Strips version contains roughly three times as much. These levels can induce varying degrees of poisoning symptoms in children depending on the body weight of the child and the amount of dissolvable ingested, ultimately leading to severe—and possibly fatal—consequences.

“The smoking industry constantly comes out with new products, and they’re designed in a very appealing way,” said HSPH Professor Gregory N. Connolly, the study’s lead researcher. “Smokeless products are high up in the poisoning reporting list. With age, children’s taste functions develop, and they move toward more sweetened products.”

Public health officials also worry that this new generation of smokeless products will initiate future tobacco use among youth.

“In addition to poisoning our children, smokeless tobacco companies [like R.J. Reynolds] are addicting our teenagers,” said Danny McGoldrick, vice president of research at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “Philip Morris and the ‘big boys’ are getting into the smokeless industry, making these products easier to use for our children.”

Though there is currently no empirical evidence to link increases in youth smoking rates to the greater prevalence of compact and sweetened smokeless products, McGoldrick insists the two are related.

“We know that use of smokeless tobacco products has increased recently among high school students,” McGoldrick said. “Among 12th grade high school boys especially, we’ve seen use increase from back in 2006.”

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