Toddlers get into everything -- ashtrays, cigarette butts, smokeless tobacco products. And every year, thousands of kids under six are poisoned by these products (13,705 calls were made to poison control centers from 2006 to 2008, according to a new study in Pediatrics).
It doesn't take much tobacco to do a lot of harm to a child: As little as 1 milligram of nicotine can cause nausea and vomiting; larger amounts may lead to weakness, convulsions, or potentially fatal respiratory arrest.
Now there's a new concern: tobacco candy.
These melt-in-your-mouth tobacco products come in the form of flavored, candy-like pellets, sticks, and strips. They're a way for adults to get a nicotine fix in nonsmoking places, but Gregory Connolly of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston says they're also a new route to more child poisonings because the "candy" looks so appealing to kids.
It's also more dangerous.
Connolly and his colleagues did a chemical analysis of RJ Reynolds Camel Orbs (tobacco pellets that look like Tic Tacs) and found they contained a greater amount of "free" nicotine than cigarettes or dipping tobacco. Free nicotine gets absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, increasing the risk that it could be more toxic to a child than other tobacco products.
"These [poison] numbers are alarming," Connolly told Reuters Health. "Parents need to get the message: Don't leave these products around where children can reach them."