The researchers also say the candy-like products could appeal to young people and lead to nicotine addiction as well.
In 2009, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company launched a dissolvable nicotine product called Camel Orbs, which according to the company's promotional literature contains one milligram nicotine per pellet and is flavored with cinnamon or mint. The company also introduced Camel Strips (to contain 0.6 mg nicotine per strip) and Sticks (to contain 3.1 mg nicotine per strip).
It appears that the product is intended as a temporary form of nicotine for smokers in settings where smoking is banned. However, the potential public health effect could be disastrous, particularly for infants and adolescents, said Gregory Connolly, lead author of the study.
Ingestion of tobacco products by infants and children is a major reason for calls to poison control centers nationwide, the researchers warn: In 2007, 6,724 tobacco-related poisoning cases were reported among children five years of age and under.
"This product is called a 'tobacco' product, but in the eyes of a four-year-old, the pellets look more like candy than a regular cigarette. 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 Connolly.
The researchers computed, based on median body weight, how much nicotine ingestion would lead to symptoms of poisoning in children: A one-year-old infant could suffer mild to moderate symptoms of nicotine poisoning by ingesting eight to 14 Orbs, 14 Strips or three Sticks. Ingesting ten to 17 Orbs, 17 Strips or three to four Sticks could result in severe toxicity or death. A four-year-old child could have moderate symptoms by ingesting 13 to 21 Orbs, 14 Strips or four Sticks and could suffer severe toxicity or death by consuming 16 to 27 Orbs, 27 Strips or five Sticks.
MEDICA.de; Source: Harvard School of Public Health