Author: Melinda Williams
FARMINGTON — New tobacco products often look like candy, and their packaging may look like cell phones or other electronics.
“But there’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product,” Davis County health educator Isa Kaluhikaua told Board of Health members Tuesday.
Kaluhikaua brought examples of smoking alternatives to show board members, most packaged in bright colors with appealing logos.
There’s Snus, a no-spit tobacco pouch meant to be placed under the upper lip, and Orbs, dissolvable breath-mint sized tobacco, with a camel imprinted on each. There’s also Strips, dissolvable strips, like breath freshening strips, containing tobacco, and dissolvable Sticks. And, there’s an electronic cigarette. The products all contain tobacco or nicotine and have not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
Kaluhikaua said if a child ingested three Orbs, they would get ill, and 10 could result in serious illness. Yet, she said, they look much like Tic-Tacs and come in a variety of flavors that children may mistake for candy.
She said the Federal Drug Administration has not approved most of the products, yet they are being put out on the market pouvez trouver. “Some are designed to fit into creative packaging,” and are marketed as a safe alternative to smoking.
Not all the products are on the market in Utah yet, Kaluhikaua said.
That sobering message was a portion of Kaluhikaua’s annual tobacco report to the board which indicates that during 2009, only 6 percent of adults and 8.6 percent of youth smoked in Davis County. She said that while the rate for both youths and adults has remained under 10 percent, a few years ago it was 6 percent for youth as well. “Ideally, we’d like to get back to 6 percent.”
Kaluhikaua said that Clearfield and Hill Air Force Base areas are above the state rate of 9.1 percent for adults and 7.9 percent for youth, but the Centerville, Farmington area was below 5 percent, the lowest rate in the state.
Kaluhikaua also reported on the health department’s tobacco compliance program, a program which sends underage youth into retail outlets to attempt tobacco purchases.
The department has been conducting the compliance checks since 1989 and buy rates have ranged from 24 percent to 6 percent. During 2008-2009, 8.3 percent of tobacco retailers sold to underage youth during compliance checks. Since 2001, the illegal sales rate decreased by 50 percent.
Kaluhikaua said that during 2009, 2,340 4th and 5th grade students were taught a tobacco prevention curriculum, 330 youth took tobacco cessation classes resulting in an 11 percent quit rate and 75 percent reduction rate, and the health department put out 780 smoke-free outdoor public places signs county-wide.