OGDEN -- The labels clearly state that the products contain nicotine and are not intended for consumption by children, but local health department officials are concerned that new smokeless tobacco products packaged in sleek containers that look like gum and candy could entice kids and teenagers.
The products are currently being test-marketed in several states, but have not yet made it onto store shelves in Utah.
A new line of melt-away tobacco strips, sticks and orbs offers users a way to get nicotine without ever lighting up.
"What we see is a sleek design and flavors that mask the harshness," said Anna Guymon, a health educator with the Weber-Morgan Health Department. "One concern of the packaging is the appeal to youth and that it is easy to conceal."
The product packaging looks similar to that of mint gum or breath mints.
Guymon said that also causes a poison concern for small children who may not be able to tell the difference between candy and a tobacco product.
"Nicotine is very poisonous," she said. "With these candy-like forms, we are concerned there will be overdose."
A dissolvable stick of tobacco, which looks similar to a toothpick, contains about 3.1 milligrams of nicotine, the health department reports. A small child can ingest poisonous levels of nicotine after consuming just three sticks.
The orb product, which is similar to a breath mint and has 1 mg of nicotine, can be fatally toxic after a child consumes 10 to 17 of the tiny pieces.
David Howard, spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, which produces the Camel products that are being test- marketed, said the company has child-proofed the packaging to help prevent an overdose and clearly labeled products as nicotine products and not a candy.
"Certainly, as with any tobacco product, adult consumers should take the responsibility to make sure these products don't get into the hands of youth," he said.
Howard said the company has also contacted the Poison Control Center in the areas the products are being test-marketed to inform them about the product in case overdoses occur.
While health department officials believe these products are directly marketed to children, Howard said that is not the case.
"Absolutely not," he said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. This is made for, and marketed toward, the adult consumer.
"These products offer adult tobacco consumers an option, and to do so without bothering others. There is no spitting, no secondhand smoke, and there's no cigarette butt litter."
Another product already on the market in Utah, called Snus, is also causing concern, Guymon said.
Snus is tobacco packaged in a tea bag-like container and used similarly to chewing tobacco, but does not require the user to spit.
Most Snus also contain a fruit or mint flavor, which Guymon said many teenagers prefer when they begin using tobacco.
"They appeal to youth. They will eventually trade up or graduate to a regular brand."
Bonneville High School Principal Art Hansen said officials are concerned about Snus and the possibility of the other new forms of tobacco coming into the school.
Currently, he said, he knows many students use tobacco products, but not very many use on campus. With the new smokeless and spitless forms of tobacco, he's worried many students will use in school.
"We are (concerned) just because of the fact that they don't need to spit. They can have forms of tobacco without anyone really knowing. It's so well-concealed. It's a harder one to detect than some of the traditional forms of tobacco use."
Hansen said students are educated in health classes about the dangers of using tobacco products. He said parents should also be aware of the products their children could get their hands on one day.
"Parents need to be informed about what is out there," he said. "If they see some of these products that look so much like candy, they need to understand the dangers of these products."
Howard said there is no set release date or even guarantee that these products will hit stores nationwide. He said the company has ended its test marketing in Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; and Indianapolis, and will begin sales in two new cities in March.
Guymon said she encourages community members and parents to voice their opinions about the new tobacco products to decision-making community leaders to help keep the products off shelves in Utah.