Cigarettes in a yummy lozenge: Parents of toddlers, beware


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

A candy-like lozenge designed to satisfy a smoker’s nicotine craving could prove dangerously tempting to little ones and lead to nicotine poisonings, a new study warns.

Cinnamon- and mint-flavored Camel Orbs were launched on the U.S. market last year -- aimed at smokers needing a nicotine fix at moments when they can’t light up. But the product’s ‘candy-like appearance and added flavorings’ -- the orbs are about the size of a TicTac, though not as colorful -- are virtually certain to tempt children to sneak one -- or a few -- with potentially disastrous effects, an article published in advance of May’s issue of the journal Pediatrics concludes.


The product is sold in several forms -- orbs, strips and sticks -- with increasing nicotine potency. The products’ maker, R.J. Reynolds, notes that they are sold in ‘child resistant’ packaging. But researchers conjecture that some adult users of the products are likely to leave them out in the open, where little ones will gain access to them.

A 4-year-old child could suffer potentially fatal poisoning with the ingestion of 13 to 21 orbs or four sticks, and a 1-year-old could succumb to the effects of as few as eight orbs or three sticks. Smaller doses could lead to nausea and vomiting.

Beyond the prospect of unintentional poisoning, researchers flagged the attraction of the flavored cigarette-replacement product to teens, who could then become addicted to nicotine.

‘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 the article’s lead author, Gregory Connolly, in a press release.

The study underscores that there’s plenty of reason to believe a child as young as a year old will pop a few of these made-for-adult treats if he or she comes upon them. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health combed through all of the reports of unintentional child poisonings involving tobacco products and found 13,705 of them, 70% of which were among children under a year old. While cigarettes themselves were the most common form in which a child ingested tobacco, smokeless tobacco products were second.

One report from Portland, Ore., where the orbs product was test-marketed, involved a child ingesting one of the pellets.


The ‘novelty and possible harm’ posed by these new dissolvable orbs, strips and sticks should prompt the Food and Drug Administration, which now is regulating tobacco as a drug, to have a look at this new product.

-- Melissa Healy