Daily Archives: May 27, 2010

Warning to Parents: Tobacco “candy” could poison your kids

A scary report is out from Reuters Health claiming that thousands of young children are accidentally poisoned by tobacco products each year in the U.S., and new dissolvable tobacco products that resemble candy might pose an additional risk.

Reuters reports: In a study of reports to U.S. poison control centers 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 percent of the victims were infants younger than one year. The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

In a baby or small child, even a small amount of nicotine, as little as 1 milligram, can cause nausea and vomiting. Larger doses could lead to weakness, convulsions or potentially fatal respiratory arrest.

The new study appears to be the first to bring together the numbers on accidental child tobacco poisonings nationally, according to lead researcher Dr. Gregory N. Connolly, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“These numbers are alarming,” 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.

But there is now a new concern, according to Connolly’s team — namely, the melt-in-the-mouth tobacco products recently put on the market.

Tobacco companies say the products — which come in the form of flavored, 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 say.

“Now we’ve got something in the marketplace that could be more attractive to kids,” Connolly said.

The products are too new to have been behind any of the poisonings in the current study. However, Connolly and his colleagues did do a chemical analysis of one — Camel Orbs, tobacco pellets with a Tic-Tac-like appearance introduced last year by R.J. Reynolds.

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.

He cautioned against doing that in any area where a young child might see them. One pellet contains about 1 mg of nicotine, so might cause nausea, Connolly said. “But if a child gets a few of them,” he added, “that could be very serious.”

Connolly and other public-health experts had already been critical of the new dissolvable tobacco products — saying they may only serve to keep smokers addicted to nicotine, and could be especially attractive to teenagers.

David Howard, a Reynolds spokesman, told The New York Times that Camel Orbs were marketed only for adults and come in child-resistant containers. He denied that they look like Tic Tac mints.

“Those packages don’t at all look alike to me,” Howard told the Times.

In an editorial accompanying the study, officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) note that while teenagers’ smoking rates have slowly declined in recent years, their use of smokeless tobacco products is rising.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry — faced with a growing number of indoor smoking bans in the U.S. — seems to have shifted focus to developing new smokeless products, write Drs. Marisa L. Cruz and Lawrence R. Deyton.

They say that 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.

The FDA is currently collecting study data from tobacco companies and independent researchers on dissolvable tobacco products and their “potential misuse,” according to Cruz and Deyton. They say the agency will use that information to make any future regulatory decisions on the products.

The FDA has already banned cigarettes with added fruit, candy or clove flavorings, but the prohibition does not apply to other tobacco products, including dissolvable ones.

According to the Times, Reynolds’ Howard said it was unfair to criticize the flavoring of Camel Orbs because many other products, including the quit-smoking aid Nicogum, come in flavors. Howard also told the Times that many other common products posed risks to infants or children from accidental ingestion.

“Virtually every household has products that could be hazardous to children, like cleaning supplies, medicines, health and beauty products, and you compare that to 20 to 25 percent of households that use tobacco products,” he said.

So, just how much activity is needed to improve your health?

The government’s latest physical activity guidelines recommend:

  • Keep track by the week. Adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity activity each week, such as brisk walking, or 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination of the two types. These activities should be done in at least 10-minute bouts and can be spread throughout the week.
  • Get more ambitious.For even more health benefits, engage in 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week or 2½ hours of vigorous activity.
  • Strengthen those muscles.Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate- or high-intensity level for all major muscle groups two or more days a week, including exercises for the chest, back, shoulders, upper legs, hips, abdomen and lower legs. The exercises can be done with free weights or machines, resistance bands, calisthenics that use body weight for resistance (push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, for instance) or carrying heavy loads or doing heavy gardening such as digging or hoeing.
  • Don’t use age as an excuse. Older Americans should follow the guidelines recommended for other adults if they are able. If not, they should try to be as active as their physical condition allows. Those who are at risk of falling should do exercises that improve balance.
  • Kids can make it fun. Children and adolescents should engage in an hour or more of moderate-intensity to vigorous aerobic physical activity each day. That should include vigorous activity at least three days a week, and it should involve bone-strengthening activities such as running, jumping rope, skipping and hopscotch, and muscle-strengthening activities such as tug of war, modified sit-ups and push-ups.

Indulging in four unhealthy behaviors ages the average individual by 12 years

It is generally understood that being inactive, eating poorly, smoking, and drinking too much are bad – very bad – for your health. Now, a newly published study assesses and quantifies those behaviors. In short, “combine all of the above and you’ll end up seeming 12 years older than people your age who do none of the above.”

That assertion is based on a study in which investigators “tracked nearly 5,000 British adults for 20 years,” the AP reports.

“Overall, 314 people studied had all four unhealthy behaviors.” That is, they smoked tobacco, had “more than three alcoholic drinks per day for men and more than two daily for women,” attained “less than two hours of physical activity per week; and” ate “fruits and vegetables fewer than three times daily.”

As a result, they “were 3.49 times more likely to die over the course of the study than their countrymen (and women) who practiced clean living,” the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” reported.

“That included a 3.14 times greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease; a 3.35 times greater risk of death from cancer; and a 4.29 times greater risk of death form any other cause.”

Conversely, “96% of those with healthy behaviors were alive at the end of the study, compared with 85% of those with the worst health habits,” according to the data in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lead investigator Elisabeth Kvaavik, PhD, of the University of Oslo, also pointed out that “also having, for instance, two poor and two healthy behaviors, doubles the risk of dying compared to having only healthy behaviors,” the CNN blog “Paging Dr. Gupta” reported.

Still, “modestly changing behaviors can have a big health impact.”

In fact, such modifications “‘are likely to have a considerable impact at both the individual and population level,’ the study authors write,” according to a report from Medscape.

Thus, “developing more efficacious methods by which to promote healthy diets and lifestyles across the population should be an important priority of public health policy.”

More than that, it shoud be an important priority for you and your family.