On May 27, CNN’s Carol Costello reported on tobacco company R.J. Reynolds new dissolvable “smokeless products.” Noting that critics call them “tobacco lollipops” that are aimed at getting “kids hooked on nicotine,” Costello reported that “R.J. Reynolds will soon test three new products — Camel sticks that dissolve as you suck them, minty tobacco strips that look like breath strips, and orbs — flavored, dissolvable tablets that some say look and taste exactly like candy.”
On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) came to the tobacco company’s defense, claiming that it wasn’t trying to deceive anyone; it’s CNN’s fault for labeling Camel Orbs as candy. Burr charged that CNN “mischaracterized the product” because “it’s not candy flavored”:
BURR: But when CNN did their story. Take a guess on the angle that they took. They labeled it as candy. Candy! Even though it’s not candy flavored. They said it was candy. … No, they said it was candy. That’s where they labeled it. … They portrayed Reynolds America as being deceptive and luring children. No candy. It’s not going in the candy section. It’s in the tobacco section where smokeless and stick products is.
Later in his speech, Burr responded to Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) criticism that some of the dissolvable tobacco products are in containers shaped like cell phones to attract kids. “Let me assure you, Mr. President, if a cell phone doesn’t work, children don’t want it,” said Burr. Watch it:
While Burr might claim that the Orbs aren’t “candy-flavored,” the fact is that they come in “mint and cinnamon flavors” known as “fresh” and “mellow.” Additionally, the tobacco industry has a well-documented history of using flavored tobacco to market their products to children:
Documents from the tobacco industry also contradict these claims. A report from R.J. Reynolds in 1985 stated: “Sweetness can impart a different delivery taste dimension, which younger adult smokers may be receptive to, as evidenced by their taste wants in other product areas.” A Brown & Williamson report from 1972 suggested consideration of developing cola-flavored and apple-flavored cigarettes. The report also suggested a sweet-flavored cigarette and stated: “It’s a well-known fact that teenagers like sweet products. Honey might be considered.” If flavored products were appealing to youth then, what has changed to make them less appealing to youth now?
Burr’s speech today follows his earlier claims that regulating tobacco by the FDA would contradict the agency’s mission to protect public health since there is no healthy way to use tobacco. Burr, whose hometown Winston-Salem is also the home of R.J. Reynolds, is the second-highest recipient of campaign contributions from Big Tobacco.