GOLDEN, Colo. — Health experts are sounding the alarm about some new tobacco products that are being test-marketed in Denver.
They’re called dissolvables.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco began selling Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips earlier this year.
“The Orbs look like Tic Tacs, the Sticks look like toothpicks and the Strips look like breath strips,” said Susan Westof, tobacco prevention specialist, with the Jefferson County Public Health Department.
Westof said these new products, combined with existing snus and colorfully wrapped, fruit-flavored mini-cigars, are very enticing to young people.
“The products are packaged in a way that makes them indistinguishable from candy,” said Donna Viverette, the department’s tobacco prevention coordinator. “That’s an issue if they end up in the hands of children.”
Viverette added, “We’re talking about a developing young brain. We’re talking about a serious impact on the neuro-chemistry and maybe even function of the brain because of the changes caused by nicotine dependence.”
But R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard disputes the allegations.
He told 7NEWS that the dissolvable products are not candy flavored and are not being marketed toward kids.
Howard said the products are made with a finely milled tobacco and may contain a mint flavor that has been used by the company for decades.
But recent Golden High School graduates Hussam Hasoon, 18, and Chris Langworthy, 18, said the dissolvables smelled like chocolate mint.
Hasoon and Langworthy were members of Golden High Schools “Breathe Easy” team, which is raising awareness about the problems of youth access to tobacco.
“They look more like kid tobacco products than adult tobacco products,” Langworthy said.
Westof noted that the dissolvables come in packages with the same color scheme as a popular chewing gum.
When asked if the tobacco company might consider changing the packaging, Howard said, “We already have.”
He said R.J. Reynolds changed the size and shape of the packaging after getting feedback during market tests in Columbus, Ohio, Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon.
“The packages are now about the same size as a pack of cigarettes,” Howard said.
He added that they are clearly labeled tobacco and carry a warning to keep out of the reach of children.
But Viverette worries that because the products look like candy, teachers and even parents might not know that kids are using them.
“An undiscerning eye wouldn’t know that it was a nicotine filled product that equals the amount of three cigarettes smoked,” Viverette said.
“We need to warn people that these products are out there,” she said.
Howard said the dissolvables are only marketed to adults and that they provide a way for consumers to enjoy tobacco without bothering others.
“There’s no second-hand smoke,” he said. “There’s no spitting and there’s no litter or cigarette butts.”
But Viverette countered by saying, “There is no safe level of tobacco or tobacco smoke.”
By Lance Hernandez, 7NEWS