CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- They don’t look, taste or smell like traditional tobacco. But some new products could be giving your teen the same nicotine buzz and that has local health officials warning parents, school nurses and doctors to be on the lookout for nicotine buzzes and nicotine poisoning.
Charlotte is a test market for a handful of products from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, including Camel Sticks, Strips and Orbs. The testing started in 2011.
They are cheaper tobacco products compared to cigarettes and include flavors called “mint” and “mellow.”
Jane Alleva, Director of All On Board -- a drug and alcohol abuse education coalition -- said the “new tobacco” type products have more nicotine in them than cigarettes and are easier for teens to use and hide.
"They come off more like you're having a breath mint. More minty. No spitting required, so it's not like you have to show it,” Alleva said.
Alleva’s main concerns include young kids confusing the Sticks and Orbs for candy based upon how they look, smell and taste. She's also worried about people using them for weight loss, users not realizing the products are addictive or how much nicotine is in them.
"If you had 10 of those Orbs, 10 of those mints within an hour, depending upon your body weight, age and everything else, you very well could be dealing with a lethal amount of nicotine,” Alleva said.
Alleva said there have been cases in York County of kids using multiple new tobacco products at the same time. Some even tape pouches to their toes for nicotine highs.
"They'll put four to eight of these in their feet and put two socks on so their feet sweat and that forces it to go into their blood stream quicker and that puts them at risk,” Alleva said.
Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include dizziness, feelings of euphoria, upset stomach and throwing up.
Alleva said with the "new tobacco" products in stores, parents need to check their kids for tobacco related minty smells, even stained socks and toes.
She said high school kids are already talking about it, so parents should be too.
The products do come with warnings saying they are not a safe alternative to cigarettes, and you must be at least 18 to buy them.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco said the products are made for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers -- they are sold behind the counter, are clearly marked as a tobacco product, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and provide adult tobacco consumers with another option of enjoying tobacco.
The tobacco company also said people who refer to the products as mints or candy are irresponsibly perpetuating false and misleading information because if a child hears the products referred to as candy, they may be more likely to try to get them.