Tobacco Candy Poisoning Kids, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens

Smoking isn't the only way to get a nicotine fix. Credit: zombieite, Flikr

Guess what, kids? Smoking may be bad for you, but now you can get your tobacco in candy form!

That's the message that seems to be coming from the tobacco companies these days. The latest in nicotine delivery systems are flavored products that contain tobacco and look a lot like breath mints or candy. They may taste good, but they can be life threatening for children who mistake them for a harmless treat, according to a new study published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

The study says accidental ingestion of tobacco products is a major cause of child poisonings, particularly for kids younger than 6.Researchers from Harvard's School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Northern Ohio Poison Control Center sorted through information from 61 poison control centers gathered between 2006 and 2008, and found more than 13,700 reports of children eating tobacco products -- usually cigarettes, but increasingly smokeless tobacco products.

While kids younger than 1 will put anything in their mouths -- hence the high rate of cigarette ingestion -- older children are somewhat more discerning and go for smokeless tobacco products, such as sweetened chewable tobacco products, Greg Connolly, the study's lead author and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, tells ParentDish.

Last year, a new tobacco mint called Orbs, which bears the Camel logo and resembles a Tic Tac, was introduced, and other similar products are in the pipeline. These tobacco candies contain much higher levels of nicotine than cessation chewing gums such as Nicorette, Connolly tells ParentDish.

"This is a ticking time bomb," he says. "Nicotene is not sugar."

Not only do the mints pose a danger to young children who could poison themselves, but also to adolescents who could become addicted to nicotine through the mints, Connolly says.

He says parents and pediatricians need to be educated about the danger of these products; the study calls on public health authorities to take a closer look at these products to determine the appropriate regulatory approach.

Related: FDA Fears Kids Will Like Dissolvable Tobacco

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.