On Tuesday, Davis County commissioners approved a contract with the Utah Health Department for the funds which will be used to begin an education campaign against the products, health officials say are being marketed to young people.
Most of the products aren’t on the shelves of Utah retailers yet, but they are being test-marketed at locations throughout the country, and they will eventually be here said Sam North, a health educator with the Davis County Health Department.
The products, marketed under brand names like Orbs, Strips and Sticks, usually come in small packages which can be mistaken for breath mint or candy packages.
Only Snus, a no-spit tobacco pouch meant to be placed under the upper lip, has found its way to Utah.
And they come in fruit flavors like peach. “I’ve smelled them and they smell pretty good,” North said.
He said the flavors are such that many adults would not be drawn to using them, but kids with their sweet tooths may find them attractive.
But make no mistake about it they do have nicotine, North said, which offers a “buzz,” something like smokers get from inhaling a cigarette.
The department has already received the grant and has begun putting together educational materials through the Davis County Youth Council. Once the material is compiled, the department will be in junior and senior high schools throughout the county to share the dangers of the products.
North said they will also be educating parents and will eventually meet with area city councils.
He added that those making the presentations in schools will have samples of the products to show kids. “They have a candy-like structure and a candy-like flavor.”
He said teens who know about the products are aware of the dangers, but parents are often shocked that the tobacco companies are marketing to children.
North said the tobacco companies in their own defense point out that the packages have child-proof safety packaging, “but adults, who also often have trouble opening the packages will pour them into a plastic bag which a child can get into,” he said.
That leads to more calls to the poison control centers for people with nicotine poisoning.
In the past, the department’s health educators have warned that if a child ingested as few as three Orbs, a dissolvable breath-mint sized tobacco, with a camel imprinted on each, they would get ill and ingesting 10 could result in a serious illness.
North said the dangers of prolonged use are similar to the effects of chewing tobacco and could lead to sores or even cancer of the mouth or tongue if enough are ingested.
By Melinda Williams