The nicotine-candy connection: Study says new pills' attractiveness can lead to children's poisoning

Apr 19, 2010
Last year, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. launched a dissolvable nicotine product called Camel Orbs, which, according to the company’s promotional literature, contains 1 mg of nicotine per pellet and is flavored with cinnamon or mint. The product apparently is intended as a temporary source of nicotine for smokers, but researchers believe its candylike appearance will lead to ingestion by children.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A tobacco company's new, dissolvable nicotine pellet--which is being sold as a tobacco product, but which in some cases resembles popular candies--could lead to accidental nicotine poisoning in children, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the Northern Ohio Poison Control Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The researchers also say the candy-like products could appeal to young people and lead to nicotine addiction as well.

The study appears in an advance online edition of the journal Pediatrics on April 19, 2010 and will appear in a later print issue.

In 2009, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched a dissolvable nicotine product called Camel Orbs, which according to the company's promotional literature contains 1 mg nicotine per pellet and is flavored with cinnamon or mint. The company also introduced Camel Strips (to contain 0.6 mg nicotine per strip) and Sticks (to contain 3.1 mg nicotine per strip).

It appears that the product is intended as a temporary form of nicotine for smokers in settings where smoking is banned. However, the potential public health effect could be disastrous, particularly for infants and adolescents, said Professor Gregory Connolly, lead author of the study and director of the Tobacco Control Research Program at HSPH.

Ingestion of products by infants and children is a major reason for calls to poison control centers nationwide. In 2007, 6,724 tobacco-related poisoning cases were reported among children five years of age and under. Small children can experience nausea and vomiting from as little as 1 mg of nicotine.

"This product is called a 'tobacco' product, but in the eyes of a 4-year-old, the pellets look more like candy than a regular cigarette. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug and to make it look like a piece of candy is recklessly playing with the health of children," said Connolly.

The researchers computed, based on median body weight, how much nicotine ingestion would lead to symptoms of poisoning in children: A one-year-old infant could suffer mild to moderate symptoms of poisoning by ingesting 8 to 14 Orbs, 14 Strips or 3 Sticks; ingesting 10 to 17 Orbs, 17 Strips or 3 to 4 Sticks could result in severe toxicity or death. A four-year-old child could have moderate symptoms by ingesting 13 to 21 Orbs, 14 Strips or 4 Sticks and could suffer severe toxicity or death by consuming 16 to 27 Orbs, 27 Strips or 5 Sticks. The researchers report that a poison control center in Portland, Oregon, a test market for Orbs, reported a case in which a three-year old ingested an Orbs pellet.

R.J. Reynolds claims that Orbs packaging is "child resistant," but the researchers say adults could unknowingly leave the pellets out in the open where children could easily access them. The researchers also say that the candy-like appearance and flavoring and ease-of-use of the product could appeal to children.

Explore further: Are pregnant women getting enough key nutrients?

More information: "Unintentional Childhood Poisonings Through Ingestion of Conventional and Novel Tobacco Products," Gregory N. Connolly, Patricia Richter, Alfred Aleguas Jr., Terry F. Pechacek, Stephen B. Stanfill, Hillel R. Alpert, Pediatrics, online April 19, 2010.

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User comments : 3

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plasticpower
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2010
Good study. Such products should be banned, along with cigarettes all together. I'm a smoker, I wish I never started smoking.
thefig
5 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2010
what about script drugs? how is that any different?
Path
5 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2010
Good study? It's always amazing to me that people would rather have the government raise their kids. Why don't we ban antifreeze? It looks like Kool-aid! What if a kid got a hold of that, they wouldn't know the difference! A million script drugs look like candy, but they want to say it's the anti-smoking aids that are the REAL danger. What kid is going to eat 27 of these things once they realize they DON'T TASTE GOOD? If anything it looks more like a vitamin than a candy. People are ridiculous.