Danger follows a camel on a small tin box

As expected, the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance banning the sale of candy cigarettes, a victory due largely to a feisty group of teen activists working with the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota.

There’s no doubt that candy cigarettes were my gateway drug to an adult addiction to Tootsie rolls and expensive Swiss chocolate. To be fair, though, these teens deserve our genuine props for tireless research, wonderful intentions and an admirable willingness to fight the law and win.

Now I’d like to draw their fire away from a product that most retailers don’t even carry anymore, to something I hope is their next target: R.J. Reynolds’ colorful new line of real danger.

Within the next few months, the tobacco giant will launch three smokeless — and spit-less — products in the Twin Cities under the Camel label. This follows its recent introduction of Snus (rhymes with goose and should be banned solely for its name), a neat little tin filled with dissolvable tobacco packets to be placed under the tongue. The launch of Camel Orbs (tiny mints in “fresh” and “mellow” flavors), Sticks (shaped like toothpicks) and Strips (that melt on the tongue) comes as cigarette smoking continues to decline among the young.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Of course, these products carry a warning that they are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Of course, their sale to minors is prohibited. Of course, those are the reasons they’ll be extremely appealing to some kids.

Smokeless products “are definitely where the tobacco industry is going,” said Aaron Doeppers, Midwest region director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The big reason? Smoke-free laws moving across the country. Doeppers, of Madison, Wis., said RJR’s marketing machine touts these products as something you can take “into a fancy tapas bar or rock concert.”

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