Camel Orbs a Lure to Young Users

A research study and editorial to be published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics takes direct aim at a novel tobacco product Camel Orbsthat some critics say too closely resembles Tic Tac breath mints.

R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, the nation’s second-largest cigarette maker behind Philip Morris, is test marketing the product, Camel Orbs, along with other dissolvable tobacco products, in three cities. It is part of a broad industry trend to create smokeless products in response to declining cigarette use and the rise of smoke-free air laws.

The study says Orbs, pellets made of finely ground tobacco with mint or cinnamon flavoring, are packed with nicotine and can poison children and lure young people to start using tobacco. The pellets dissolve in the mouth, like breath mints. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and to make it look like a piece of candy is recklessly playing with the health of children,” the lead researcher, Gregory N. Connolly, a professorwith the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an interview.

Camel Orbs began test marketing last year in stores in Portland, Ore., Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis. They have also been advertised in popular magazines including People, Wired and Rolling Stone. One ad says: “Enjoy Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.”

David Howard, a Reynolds spokesman, said Camel Orbs were marketed only for adults and come in child-resistant containers. He denied that they look like Tic Tac mints.

“Those packages don’t at all look alike to me,” Mr. Howard said in an interview Friday.

But other people detected youth appeal. Emily A. Kile, 18, a high school senior involved in antismoking efforts in Greenfield, Ind., said, “Kids can sit in class, you know, and use it and nobody would know.”

Mike Moran, the police chief of Talent, Ore., 280 miles south of Portland, said he found a group of teenagers last spring sharing Camel Orbs taken from one of their older brothers.

Mr. Howard of Reynolds said it was unfair to criticize the flavoring of Camel Orbs because many other products, including the quit-smoking aid Nicogum, come in flavors. Mr. Howard also said many other common products posed risks to infants or children from accidental ingestion.

“Virtually every household has products that could be hazardous to children, like cleaning supplies, medicines, health and beauty products, and you compare that to 20 to 25 percent of households that use tobacco products,” he said.

But Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff, a Harvard medical professor and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, said tobacco and Camel Orbs posed special risks.

“The difference here is that kids potentially will be watching grown-ups ingesting these products,” he said in an interview. “The last time I checked, we don’t have adults drinking toilet bowl cleanser in front of their kids.”

Dr. Winickoff, who advised Professor Connolly on where to publish the study, contended that the tobacco industry was creating novel products partly to entice and addict a new generation of smokers to replace those who die.

It is the sort of assertion all major tobacco companies deny, saying they are just providing product choices to adult smokers.

The study found that Camel Orbs had an extremely high level of absorbable nicotine because of the alkalinity of the product. An Orb sampled by this reporter had a very minty taste and seemed to deliver a jolt of nicotine. The study also found 13,705 reports to the nation’s poison control centers of ingestion of tobacco products of all sorts by children under age 6 from 2006 through 2008, of which 1,768 were from smokeless products.

Professor Connolly said researchers found one specific case of accidental ingestion of a Camel Orb pellet by a 3-year-old in Oregon, although the child did not need medical attention. Other children suffered nausea or vomiting from eating other tobacco products. But Professor Connolly estimated that the nicotine in 10 to 17 orbs could kill an infant.

In a commentary in Pediatrics, Dr. Laurence R. Deyton, director of the newly formed Center for Tobacco Products at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Marisa L. Cruz, also from the center, wrote about the “unique concerns” of dissolvable tobacco. New Reynolds products also include a thin strip similar to some breath mint products and a stick resembling a toothpick.

“The candy-like appearance, added flavors, and easily concealable size of many of these products may be particularly appealing to children and adolescents,” they wrote.

The dissolvable products are the second priority for review by the F.D.A. office, after menthol cigarettes, under legislation passed by Congress last year. The law put tobacco products under government review for the first time. Reynolds has been required to provide the F.D.A. with about 13,000 pages of research and other materials about dissolvable tobacco products.

Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, co-sponsored an amendment that was included in the new law and required the F.D.A. to study dissolvable products within two years. Depending on the outcome of that review, the agency could ban them or require product changes.

“They’re tobacco candy,” Senator Merkley said Friday. “Everything about them is designed for kids. We know from research that for people to be addicted to nicotine, you’ve got to get them before 21 when their brain is still developing.”

April 18, 2010

3 responses to “Camel Orbs a Lure to Young Users

  1. Anonymous Coward

    To the anti-smoking crusaders,
    This is what happens when you use incremental bans, laws, and social pressure to eliminate the adult habit of smoking that you so despise. True, it is unhealthy. So what? Secondhand smoke has never shown conclusively to kill anyone. There are “No Smoking” signs on every door, elevator, park, outside areas, inside workplaces, inside bars, 50 feet outside of bars, schools (many of which have ash trays right next to the signs!), and any other area that the “public health must be protected” for “the sake of the children and the sake of these poor addicted nicotine addicts-it’s worse than heroin!”
    Well, I know plenty of smokers with full-time jobs, kids, houses, cars, whom play sports, participate in the community, and unhappily fork over up to $5 per pack in local, state, and/or city taxes.
    Enough is enough. These products were developed because we cannot smoke anywhere anymore. Yes, they will be more stealthy.

    In fact, the fashion industry has to “lure kids to their clothing stores” using celebrities, catchy commercials, hip hop and other musical soundtracks to “replace the women who get too old or fat to wear kids’ cloths any longer”.

    Please give it a break. Give it up. You’ve lost. Nicotine will be around forever, and now it’s become incredibly easy for kids to use it, because you’ve made it incredibly difficult for adults to use it. Way to go. I hope you can sleep at night, knowing had the adult smokers been left to enjoy their habit and not burdened with so many taxes and restrictions that in order for the tobacco companies to maintain profits and sales, they engineered more addictive cigarettes!

    I maintain that secondhand smoke has not been shown to kill anyone. The “450,000 a year die from smoking” number often touted was taken from an epidemiological analysis around the time that California enacted a certain ban on smoking. The evidence of this study showed close to 470,000 deaths by heart disease the previous year. Then it was 450,000 the year after the ban. Then it was deduced that smoking had killed 20,000 les that year. This was then flipped and they just went along with “Smoking kills 450,000 Americans per year”

    You are causing incredible damage to the children while rallying to protect them. You are turning families against each other. Some people smoke. Most don’t. That’s the way of the world. If you can’t handle that, well, life is going to be rough for you.

  2. David Howard

    I’d like to clarify some points in your April 13 article “Nico-teen fit.”

    R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. makes and markets Camel Snus, a smokeless tobacco product that does not require spitting. The product is made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers, not youth. You will find the product on the same shelves in stores as other tobacco products, requiring the assistance of a clerk to buy them. Their packages carry the same health warnings as all other smokeless tobacco products, and they are taxed at the same rate as smokeless tobacco products.

    Our Camel Orbs tobacco product is a dissolvable tobacco product that does not require spitting and creates no secondhand smoke and no cigarette butt litter. This product is not currently sold in Massachusetts.

    Additionally, we don’t believe that any of the cigarettes we manufacture have a characterizing flavor that would be banned by FDA regulation, and we do not manufacture or market the blunt wrappers and flavored cigars mentioned in your article.

    It is a guiding principle and belief at R.J. Reynolds that youth should not use tobacco products.

    David Howard

    Director of communications

    Reynolds American Services

    Winston-Salem, N.C.

  3. Hi, my name is Jordan I am a college student at a community college in Middle Tennessee. This product which I have never heard of until I was doing research on the computer, is astonishing to me(camel orbs). This product has really changed my outlook on big tobacco companies goal ,and main purpose. All they strive for is addicting young users to thier product to replace old ones. I am really going to try my best to quit consuming these products for good. It really gets to me how they try to deny that thier product is not intended for kids. I remember in high school we would always try to sneak dip into the classroom without getting caught. I believe big tobacco knows that teenagers try to do such things as that to be cool I guess you could say. This product only will make things harder for peers to keep kids from doing these things in school, and harder for parents to catch and stop the problem before their child becomes addicted. If this product is allowed all it will do is continue the chain of another generation consuming more tobacco products. I recently lost an uncle to a tobacco related disease last weekend. I am for all efforts to stop second hand smoke by the government. I mean all my friends who smoke say “Man I could die tommorrow,why not smoke?”. My argument is all these products do is kill you. There is no acceptions. Anonymous Coward posted pretty much that smokers still can be succesfull, and still contribute to the society with tax dollars. I understand that but wouldnt you rather contribute to a society without herting people.Nicotine is more addictive then all street drugs including meth. Let the government put a tan dollar tax on ciggaretes and the see how succesful they are. I mean I know alot of smokers that are good interactive people. But wouldnt you like keeping them around longer? All smoking does is minimize those chances. Are society has just adapted to bieng ok with smoking because it has been around for so long. Our government is stepping up, and personaly I think they should just tax the hell out of tobacco products. If they really wanted to look out for the general health of the general public. Smoking is something people due for pleasure . I believe something pleasurable like smoking as dangerous as it is should be taxed more to reduce consumption and to help the general publics health. Especially if it has the death rate that it does. I believe it kills someone every 6.5 seconds if the t.v commercial is correct lol. Im sure tobacco useres will be pissed off at first but I gurantee they will feel alot better when they dont have to depend on nicotine to get throught the day.All im hoping for is the death rate to at least decrease. And allowing these products will only add to that rate.Alot may disagree with what I have posted ,but when you lose a close loved one to tobacco products then you may be a little more considerate to my suggestions.

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