WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) today approved an amendment from Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio focused on nefarious new products – tobacco candy.  The amendment was approved as part of new landmark legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco.

“Tobacco candies are clearly designed to appeal to children through both packaging and taste.  Congress and the FDA must act quickly to ensure our children do not become victims of the tobacco companies’ latest efforts to hook new generations of Americans on deadly products,” said Merkley. 

“For years, tobacco companies have deceived consumers and marketed products to children—continually trying to replace the 400,000 customers they lose each year to tobacco-related deaths and illnesses,” Brown said. “There is no doubt that smokeless tobacco products are aimed squarely at children. We have a responsibility to protect children from suggestive marketing and dangerous products.”

Tobacco candies are smokeless, dissolvable tobacco products.  One variety, called “Camel Orbs”, is currently being test-marketing by RJ Reynolds in three cities, including Portland, Oregon, and Columbus, Ohio.  The Orbs come in two flavors - “mellow” and “fresh” – and are sold in containers designed to resemble cell phones.  From a distance, the packaging and design of the individual Orbs are virtually indistinguishable from breath mints.

The legislation under consideration by the HELP Committee will for the first time ever give the FDA the legal authority to regulate tobacco products.  Under the bill, the FDA would be able to regulate the content of cigarettes and other tobacco products to make them less toxic, set rules governing warning labels and marketing, review previously secret tobacco industry research, and decide whether new tobacco products may be sold in the United States. 

The Merkley-Brown amendment would require the new Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee to immediately study the public health effects of tobacco candy and report to the Food and Drug Administration on its findings.  The Committee’s recommendations will provide the FDA with all the information it needs to act promptly on the question of the public health impact of these tobacco candy products, particularly as those risks pertain to children, and take steps to prevent these products from being widely marketed and sold.

The HELP Committee is expected to conclude work on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in the next few days.