Camel Dissolvables - Columbus, OH - Tobacco mints a lot like candy?

September 28, 2009 - The "mints" in your child's pocket might give much more than a sugar high, the Federal Drug Administration is warning. They might provide a jolt of nicotine.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is test-marketing tobacco-infused mints in Columbus and two other markets. The company says the mints are for adults who want an alternative to cigarettes.

Critics warn that the so-called "dissolvable tobacco" products will appeal to youngsters. "It's in a colorful candy box and looks just like candy," said school nurse Eva Garchar of Cincinnati, who saw the Camel Orbs during a lecture at a nurses convention last spring. "All the people in the audience were disheartened by that."

Test-marketing of the mints started in the spring in Columbus bars, gas stations and markets. Two other flavored tobacco products, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips, joined them in the past few months.

David P. Howard, R.J. Reynolds spokesman, said the company does not target children. "Those accusations are completely unfounded," he said. "It is a guiding principle of this company that youth should not use tobacco. These products are only for adult tobacco consumers."

Deb Strouse, president of the Ohio Association of School Nurses, doesn't buy it. "It's something that looks like a treat, and we find it reprehensible that people put tobacco into these kinds of products," said Strouse, a nurse in the Columbus school district. "Even if they say they're not advertising to children, we know the products are attractive to children."

Like cigarettes, the orbs, strips and sticks can't legally be sold to anyone younger than 18.

A federal law that took effect this week bans the sale of candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes, in part because of their attractiveness to children. But the ban doesn't extend to the mints and other candy-flavored tobacco products. (Flavored cigarettes are not even one percent of the cigarette market.)

The FDA began warning parents on its Web site this week that flavored tobacco products are "especially appealing to kids and can lead to a lifetime of tobacco addiction."

On Wednesday, September 23rd a coalition of anti-smoking activists said the products are another reason why state officials should continue to fund stop-smoking programs instead of diverting the money elsewhere. (Ohio - don't cut spending on anti-tobacco programs it will cost the state much more in the long run..)

Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said the health risks of the products are not well-known. "With the past history of the tobacco industry, we know they might put all sorts of dangerous things in there," Kiser said.

R.J. Reynolds officials say the company doesn't slip in secret ingredients but uses "finely milled tobacco mixed with non-characterizing flavors and food-grade binders," according to the company's Web site.

Kiser said the products can hook children and adults on tobacco, which could lead to smoking. Also, the small size and minty flavor might encourage young people to take several at once, leading to a dangerous increase in their heart rate, Kiser said. "Nicotine is nicotine," she said. (Poison Control Centers - Camel Dissolvables - Nicotine Toxicity..)

Four local businesses selling the new products said they have sold few despite numerous promotions.

Reference: Tobacco mints a lot like candy? by James Nash and Kathy Lynn Gray, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 9/25/2009.

Related news briefs: Ohio - state will provide NO funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs..; Ohio - don't cut spending on anti-tobacco programs it will cost the state much more in the long run...