For information about quitting tobacco use, call the Kansas Tobacco Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669).
Kansas health officials are warning the public that a new product known as tobacco sticks poses some of the same health risks as other tobacco products. Parents especially need to be aware of the products, according to Janel Rose at the Barton County Health Department.
The smokeless tobacco sticks look like chocolate-covered toothpicks, but are actually coated with finely milled tobacco. They come in matchbook-size packages and are being test marketed in Kansas under the brands Marlboro and Skoal. Some Great Bend convenience stores are selling them, Rose said.
"The biggest danger of this particular product is that it will appeal to children and youth, and it will entice them to try tobacco in a different form," Rose said. "It is candy flavored, and small children could even mistake it for candy and get very sick from it."
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Robert Moser issued a warning to parents when the new product hit the streets.
"As the state’s health agency, KDHE is particularly concerned about the potential appeal of these new tobacco sticks to youth," Moser said in a news release. "The packages are so small that they could easily be concealed in a shirt or pants pocket and youth could use tobacco sticks in front of parents or teachers while appearing to have a simple toothpick in their mouth. We are also concerned about the risk of young children accidentally ingesting these products."
The KDHE news release added that one person who tested the products claimed "they not only look like candy, they also taste like candy."
Any tobacco product may be lethal to small children, and one tobacco stick appears to deliver as much nicotine as about three cigarettes, Rose said. (This is based on a study in Pediatrics that found the product Camel Sticks had 3.1 mg of nicotine per stick.)
KDHE reports ingestion of as little as 1 mg of nicotine by a small child can produce symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The estimated minimal lethal pediatric dose is 1 mg of nicotine per 2.2 pounds of body weight.
"Tobacco sticks are one of a group of new dissolvable candy-like tobacco products being tested in a few states," KDHE reports. "Tobacco products being tested in other states include tobacco orbs (Tic-Tac size dissolvable tobacco) and tobacco strips that look similar to breath strips."