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What is ‘tobacco candy’?

The low-down on the curious product that — according to a new report — may be responsible for poisoning nearly 600 children a year.According to a new report, almost 600 children a year contract a mild case of poisoning after accidentally eating so-called “tobacco candy” — the second most common source of unintentional tobacco consumption for kids six and younger (after second-hand smoke). What is this controversial product, and should it be banned? (See a report about “tobacco candy”)

Can you really buy candy made from tobacco?

Yes, depending on how you define “candy.” R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, for example, is test-marketing dissolvable lozenges marketed as Camel Orbs for those who want a nicotine hit without smoking, chewing, or sniffing tobacco. The company calls Orbs an “alternative for legal smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit and who prefer to enjoy tobacco use without violating laws or social norms.”

What do Camel Orbs taste like?

The New York Times describes Orbs as pellets “of finely ground tobacco with mint or cinnamon flavoring” that resemble breath mints.

Are Orbs comparable to the chewing gum people use to quit smoking?

Not exactly. Nicorette and other brands of “cessation chewing gum” introduce nicotine slowly into your system, theoretically reducing your craving for it. Each Camel Orb pellet contains 0.83 mg of nicotine, and functions more like a quick hit for people who enjoy the nicotine sensation.

Can the lozenges be sold to children?

No. Only adults above the age of 18 can buy Orbs, which are sold in child-proof packaging.

Why the fuss then?

According to the new study published in Pediatrics, nearly 1,800 children in the U.S. accidentally consumed smokeless tobacco products such as Camel’s Orbs. The study’s authors complain that the Orb pellets “strongly resemble Tic-Tac mints” and could easily be mistaken for them. R.J. Reynolds disputes this.

Is Camel the only brand available?

No. Stonewall Dissolvable Nicotine Pieces, for example, is produced by Star Scientific specifically for heavy smokers. Each tablet, available in three flavors (“wintergreen, natural, or java”), contains approximately 4 mg of nicotine.

What will happen next?

The Food and Drug Administration contacted R.J. Reynolds and Star Scientific this February to relay concerns that children find the “brightly colored packaging, candy-like appearance and easily concealable size” of “tobacco candy” particularly appealing. The FDA is currently reviewing both companies’ research into their products’ appeal to young people before setting any regulations.

Where can I buy them?

Camel Orbs, Strips and Sticks are only being test-marketed in Oregon, Ohio and Indiana, but Stonewall can be purchased online from the company’s website.

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