Merkley and Brown Call for Recall of Tobacco Candy

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of a new study outlining numerous cases where children have been poisoned by tobacco candy, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Ohio’s Senator Sherrod Brown have called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately remove the products from the market.

“The flavoring, appearance and packaging of tobacco candy are clearly designed to appeal to children.  The tobacco companies even shaped the containers to look like a cell phone in a student’s pocket, making it hard for teachers to detect and intercept them,” said Merkley.  “Now we have even more evidence that children are not only obtaining these candies, they are being poisoned by them.  We must remove this dangerous product from store shelves as soon as possible.”

“With 400,000 of their customers dying every year due to tobacco-related illnesses, it comes as no surprise that tobacco companies are trying to attract new customers.  What is surprising is the extent they are willing to go to target our nation’s children,” said Brown.  “From the beginning, it was clear that these tobacco candies were designed to appeal to young people and now we find out that these products are responsible for poisonings in young children.  Enough is enough.  It is my hope that FDA will use their new authority to act quickly to remove these products from the market and to protect our children.”

Earlier this week, the medical journal Pediatrics published a new study showing that dissolvable tobacco products, including Camel Orbs, Sticks and Strips, can poison and ultimately cause death in children.  These dissolvable tobacco products, which have a candy-like appearance and taste, are packaged in attractively colored containers.  They are currently being test-marketed in Portland, Oregon, Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana.  

The study’s authors confirmed that these products are appealing to children, writing, “Novel smokeless tobacco products, including dissolvable, compressed tobacco products … are now of major concern, with their discreet form, candy-like appearance and added flavorings that may be attractive to children.”

Already, there has been a confirmed case of a 3-year-old in Oregon ingesting Orbs.  According to one of the authors, a single Orb can contain about 1 milligram of nicotine roughly, equal to the amount in a typical cigarette, and enough to sicken a small child.  Ingesting a handful of pellets could be lethal.

Last year, Congress passed and the President signed landmark legislation allowing the FDA to regulate tobacco products for the first time.  As part of that legislation, Senators Merkley and Brown successfully fought for the inclusion of a provision requiring the FDA to issue an expedited study of tobacco candy which had just come on the market at the time.  While that study is currently underway, the legislation also allows the FDA to issue orders halting the distribution of any tobacco product that causes serious, adverse health consequences not ordinarily caused by tobacco products.  Today, Senators Merkley and Brown wrote to the FDA urging it to take this step immediately to prevent further distribution of tobacco candy.