By Lauren DeSouza- Master of Public Health, Simon Fraser Public Research University – Canada
Staff Research and Content Writer
© Copyright – SUD Recovery CENTERS – A Division of Genesis Behavioral Services, Inc. Milwaukee, Wisconsin – November 2022 – All rights reserved.
“Nicotine gummies are a public health crisis just waiting to happen among our nation’s youth.”
— FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf
Alternative nicotine products have been gaining popularity over the last decade, in particular among young people. Rates of nicotine vaping among U.S. youth and young adults have skyrocketed. In 2021, more than a quarter (27.6%) of U.S. high school students reported vaping nicotine daily, compared to 11% in 2016.
Flavored products played a significant role in the rise in popularity of vaping. Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigs or vapes) were available in flavors such as cotton candy, gummy bear or mango tango that appealed to young people. Now, we are seeing the same youth-appealing flavors and marketing tactics being used in new non-tobacco oral nicotine products.
These products include nicotine gummies, hard candies, and gums made from synthetic nicotine that was not derived from tobacco. These are distinct from the nicotine replacement therapy products (nicotine gum, patch, lozenge, and inhaler) that are sold over-the-counter or by prescription to help people quit smoking or other tobacco use. Instead, these products are designed to appeal to those who have never used tobacco, especially young people.
In a recent survey done in California, these non-tobacco oral nicotine products were almost as popular as e-cigarettes among high school students.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning letter about youth use of these new nicotine products. These products are not legal for sale in the US. The letter warns of potential health risks to young people and warns the manufacturer of these illegally-sold products. The warning was issued to Krave Nic, a brand of nicotine gummies that are being sold illegally in kid-friendly flavors “blueraz”, “cherry bomb” and pineapple.
Source: Krave Nic via CNN
Krave Nic’s fun flavors and brightly-colored packaging make their products attractive to children and youth. The nicotine gummies resemble regular candy or mints, and there is a risk of a child accidentally ingesting a Krave gummy thinking it was candy. Given that these products contain nicotine, there are serious health risks for children and youth ingesting them.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical found in tobacco. It can also be manufactured synthetically in a lab. Each Krave Nic gummy contains 1 milligram (mg) of nicotine, and gummies are sold in a pack of 12. Nicotine carries risks for young people, in particular children. According to the FDA, ingesting just one of these gummies (1mg of nicotine) poses a risk of nicotine toxicity to young children. Older youth are at risk of nicotine toxicity from ingesting higher amounts of nicotine. Nicotine toxicity may lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, higher heart rate and blood pressure, seizures, and respiratory failure. It can even be fatal.
Aside from nicotine toxicity, nicotine can also harm young people’s brains. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical and can be extremely harmful to young people as their brains are still developing. Exposure to nicotine in adolescence can harm both mood and cognitive functioning and these effects can persist into adulthood.
The kid-friendly packaging and appealing flavors of nicotine gummies and similar products are putting young people at risk of nicotine toxicity, nicotine addiction, and impaired brain development. Health care providers, parents, and young people themselves should be aware of these products and the risks that they carry and should take care to keep them away from children and youth.
Christensen, Jen. Nicotine gummies are a ‘public health crisis just waiting to happen,’ FDA says. CNN. September 16, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/16/health/nicotine-gummies-wellness/index.html
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Warns Manufacturer for Marketing Illegal Flavored Nicotine Gummies. Press Release. August 18, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-manufacturer-marketing-illegal-flavored-nicotine-gummies
Truth Initiative. E-cigarettes: Facts, stats, and regulations. June 15, 2021.https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations
Truth Initiative. Why the rise in youth e-cigarette use may be worse than we think. April 18, 2018.htttps://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/why-rise-youth-e-cigarette-use-may-be-worse-we-think