Thousands of young children are accidentally poisoned by tobacco products each year.
New dissolvable tobacco products that resemble candy might pose an additional risk to the already high statistic of young children who die each year.
In a study of reports to US poison control centres between 2006 and 2008, investigators found that 13,705 children younger than 6 were accidentally poisoned by tobacco products.
Cigarettes were the most common culprit, followed by smokeless tobacco products, and more than 70% of the victims were infants younger than one year.
In a baby or small child, even a small amount of nicotine (as little as 1mg) can cause nausea and vomiting. Larger doses could lead to weakness, convulsions or potentially fatal respiratory arrest.
"These numbers are alarming," Dr. Gregory N. Connolly told Reuters Health. "Parents need to get the message: Don't leave these products around where children can reach them."
That, he said, includes making sure to clear cigarette butts from ashtrays or anywhere else a baby or child could get a hold of them.
In this study, cigarettes or filter tips were responsible for nearly 10,600 of the poisonings the researchers documented. Smokeless tobacco products were behind another 1,768.Dangerous sweeties
But there is now a new concern, namely the melt-in-the-mouth tobacco products recently put on the market.
Tobacco companies say the products - which come in the form of flavoured, candy-like pellets, sticks and strips - are meant to give adults a smoke-free way to get their nicotine fix. But they could also end up as a new route for accidental child poisonings.
Connolly and his colleagues did do a chemical analysis of one - Camel Orbs, tobacco pellets with a Tic-Tac-like appearance.
The researchers found that the pellets contained a greater proportion of "free" nicotine than the norm for cigarettes or dipping tobacco.
Free nicotine is more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, raising the possibility that it could more toxic to a child than other tobacco products are.
The Camel Orb packaging is said to be child-resistant; however, Connolly noted that the packaging is tricky enough that many users might prefer to dispense a number of pellets at a time, leaving some lying around.
The fact that the nicotine from dissolvable products may be more quickly absorbed raises concerns not only about poisonings in young children, but also about the addiction potential should older kids use them.What are your thoughts on tobacco candy?