Dissolvable Tobacco Dubbed ‘Candy’ by Oregon’s Sen. Merkley

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week opened a 60-day comment period on dissolvable tobacco products which Senator Jeff Merkley’s office has dubbed “tobacco candy.”

I was going to publish their press release without editing it, but then I realized that the product they are describing as ‘candy’ is actually an extremely awful tasting tobacco tablet that I’ve tried in the past. I believe that any child who placed one of these in their mouths would spit it halfway across the room after they realized how awful tasting it is.

They are the foulest tasting item one could ever try to ingest.

I believe the senator and possibly his entire staff, have never actually experienced one of these items that they very clearly choose to describe as ‘candy’ when it is nothing of the sort. This is a product strictly sold to adults and my take on it was that if a person wanted to quit smoking, they could somehow wrestle these things down and the last thing they would want afterward would be a cigarette.

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley is urging Oregonians to submit their stories and opinions relating to the sale, distribution, and use of “tobacco candy” to the FDA and again I cringe; I feel this statement is extremely misleading and poorly selected.

But they love this language.

“Tobacco candy poses two significant threats to our children,” Merkley said.

“First and foremost, these products are designed to hook the next generation of Americans into nicotine addiction, jeopardizing the health of young people for the rest of their lives. In fact, tobacco causes more than 443,000 deaths each year. And second, upon rare occasions, these candies can pose a serious poisoning threat if ingested by young children. If you have concerns over the way these tobacco candy products are being marketed to our children, now is the time to make your voice heard.”

Jeff Merkley always struck me as a well intentioned person, from most everything I have seen over the years. I’ve watched Jeff go from the Oregon capital to the national capital as a U.S. Senator. To me that means increased responsibility. This whole approach however rings of false advertising.

Also, the Camel Orbs box in particular, is very hard to open. It makes childproof pill bottles look easy.

Again from Merkley’s press release:

In June 2009, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which allows the FDA to regulate tobacco products for the first time. A provision of the bill authored by Merkley and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) requires the new Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to study the public health effects of tobacco candy and report to the FDA on its findings.

Tobacco candy products are designed to appeal to children. They are made of dissolvable tobacco and resemble breath mints and other candies and come in flavors such as mint and caramel.

I know the Camel tablets were awful; perhaps these new products somehow actually carry the tastes mentioned above. I think in the end it is very hard to make a foul product like tobacco taste good and I allow that anything is possible, but from what I have seen so far, the thing Merkley calls ‘candy’ is anything but candy. I also can’t see this product as something designed to entice a new generation of tobacco users; I see it as a bridge for a person who seeks to quit smoking.

The press release states that a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in April 2010 showed that dissolvable tobacco products, including Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips, can poison and ultimately cause death in children.

Already, there has been a confirmed case of a 3-year-old in Oregon ingesting Camel Orbs, a small, compressed tobacco pellet.

There is no mention of anything adverse happening to the child in the press release.

According to one of the authors, a single Orb can contain about 1 milligram of nicotine roughly equal to the amount in a typical cigarette and enough to sicken a small child. Ingesting a handful of pellets could be lethal.

My point is that the public should not be swayed by such strong wording by one of our elected officials; using ‘candy’ to describe a product that will not be labeled as candy, placed in a candy section, or available to children. Adults who use these products, quite obviously, should keep them out of any child’s reach; the same way people carefully manage their prescription medicines, many of which also resemble ‘candy’.

As part of the FDA’s information collection process, tobacco companies will be submitting their own documents and research.

Oregonians can share their stories on the Regulations.gov website at: http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=0900006480b766c4

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