Wednesday, May 12, 2010

According to a survey administered by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, one out of three teenagers younger than 18 mistakenly identified a new type of smokeless tobacco product as candy or gum. The survey of about 1,400 Virginia residents, including 728 younger than 18, asked them to identify package images for several types of new, smokeless tobacco products, as well as package images of mints and gums. About 39 percent of the respondents younger than 18 identified Camel Orbs, an oral tobacco product that dissolves in the month and delivers nicotine to the user, as mints or gum. Of the teenagers younger than 18 surveyed who do not currently use tobacco, 27 percent said they would try Camel Orbs based on packaging alone.

Another product identified in the survey was Stonewall, a type of smokeless, pellet tobacco sold by Star Scientific Inc. About 35 percent of the survey respondents 18 or younger perceived Stonewall to be candy, mints or gum. Twenty-three percent said they would try Stonewall because of the packaging.

The survey results suggest that packaging of the products alone may appeal to youth, said Danny Saggese, director of marketing for the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth."It poses a significant risk to youth and raises the possibility of them not only using these products, but using them in places where smoking is now prohibited, and potentially becoming nicotine addicts," he said.

In March 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a rule restricting access and marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to youth. The rule becomes effective June 22, 2010 and will require smokeless tobacco products to have warning labels that cover one-third of the front and back of the packages. However, many tobacco prevention groups and government officials believe the FDA should ban smokeless tobacco products altogether. In an April 18th New York Times interview, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon called the products “tobacco candy,” noting that “everything about them is designed for kids.”

Brandi Robinson
Program Associate
Partnership for Prevention


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