Children might mistake nicotine pellets for candy

By Sheryl Kay • Published: July 16th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

They look a lot like other hard candies… bite-sized, packaged in a glossy colored tin and flavored in mint and cinnamon.

More dissolvable, tasty nicotine-replacement products aimed at smokers who find themselves in smoke-free environments are on the market. But put the little chocolate-looking squares in front of children, and the warning sign on the outside of the box about the toxicity of nicotine gets about as much attention as an optional homework assignment.

The Tobacco Control Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health recently looked at this very issue, and released a report outlining several strong concerns and warnings.

According to the study recently published in Pediatrics, researchers looked at three nicotine replacement products. One mint-like product contained one milligram of nicotine, a tasty film strip contained about a half milligram, and a toothpick-like stick contained more than three milligrams.

This, they said, was of particular concern because children, physically smaller than adults, are much more prone to the nicotine’s effect, and can actually begin to experience nicotine poisoning from as little as one milligram.

In their calculations, the scientists noted that an infant could experience mild to moderate symptoms of poisoning by ingesting about ten pellets, while only a few more could bring about severe poisoning or even death.

The researchers concluded that while the packaging is designed to be childproof, parents who use the product might still leave unattended pellets around, posing a great and imminent health danger to their children.

So it’s important to pay attention. This is one assignment parents can’t rely on their kids to do for themselves.