Smokeless tobacco being marketed like candy

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff Writer

Some types of smokeless tobacco are being packaged and marketed more like candy than tobacco products. The Morrison County Public Health department is checking out how the products are being displayed in area businesses.

“We are going into stores to see which of these products they are stocking, how they are advertised and where they are being displayed,” said Sheila Funk, community health educator working with Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). “This is done in a very friendly way; it’s not a compliance check.

The smokeless tobacco is flavored like candy and packaged more like a candy than chewing tobacco.

“It’s in too small of a package and consumers can easily mistake it for candy,” Funk said. “The tablets are about the same size as a Tic Tac. One tablet has the nicotine content of an average cigarette. As few as two to three tablets in a three-year-old can be deadly.”

The Public Health Department has received funds from a community transformation grant for tobacco-free living. The funds will be provided through 2016.

“It’s nice to see multi-year strategies in these grants,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “That gives time to see results.”

These products are supposed to be displayed on upper shelves so there is less chance they would be mistaken for candy.

“We’re concerned about young adults purchasing these items and having them around the house near children,” Funk said. “We just want people to be aware.”

“Those people who are over 18 and want to use tobacco — that’s their choice,” Gruber said. “This is about children getting hurt.”