Smokeless tobacco, while not aimed at kids, is a product that is certainly enticing. Ever since the ban on flavored cigarettes, tobacco companies have come up with creative alternatives to satisfy nicotine cravings with a little flavor. There are flavored lozenges and little tea bag-like packets of tobacco called Snus that are readily available for adult consumption in most gas stations and smoke shops that sell smokes. They come in flavors like mint and mango, and are completely smokeless and spitless forms of tobacco, which makes them ideal forms of getting nicotine for our sneaky kids.
One lozenge or one packet of Snus (designed to be placed in the upper or lower lip for about 30 minutes just like chewing tobacco without the spitting and loose tobacco pieces floating around) has the equivalent nicotine amount of one cigarette, and the nicotine stays in the body for a decent amount of time. While these products are not aimed at kids, why wouldn’t they be tempted to try a nicotine product that NOBODY would know they were taking?
Since these products are smokeless, I wanted to see for myself if they are discernible to other people- can they be seen in the mouth? Do they have a tell-tale scent? What do they taste like? So a friend of mine who smokes and keeps Snus handy for whenever she wants one gave me a mango Snus packet (Camel) to test out for myself.
The packet is larger and thicker than I thought, but smells sweet. It really does look and smell like a peachy teabag, but the taste for me was actually OK. It was surprisingly spicy, it made me gag, and it made me feel instantly light-headed and had a weird tingly feeling. I think they are supposed to tingle for a few minutes and give you a calming sensation. You could definitely see it in my mouth- in both the upper and lower lip it protrudes like you have a swollen tooth. It makes you swallow- a lot- and really burned my throat. I don’t know what tobacco is supposed to taste like but this Snus was sweet enough to tolerate if you could get beyond the spicy burning taste it also had.
So you can see Snus if it’s in the lip, but if you move it to the back teeth or suck on it, you can’t see it in the mouth. The taste was more tolerable than a cough drop and retained a sweet flavor throughout, tasting somewhat like a mango tea, and unfortunately I couldn’t smell anything that resembled cigarette smoke or tobacco at all. I only had it in my mouth for a few minutes, but as a non smoker was surprised at how easy the product was to tolerate.
So how can you tell if your kids are using it? I didn’t try any lozenges, but if the big ol Snus packet was easily tolerated, I can imagine a dissolving lozenge the size of aspirin would be even easier to hide. It surprised me that a non smoker could actually “enjoy” a Snus, so it concerns me that kids who don’t want to sneak around smoking could enjoy a flavorful pouch without their parents knowing it.
So how will a parent know their kid is smoking when they aren’t really smoking? Smokeless tobacco has no identifying odor that I could tell, doesn’t turn the mouth a funky color, and has no lingering tobacco pieces that could give the user away. I suppose if you suspect your child is up to some nicotine behavior, just know what you’re looking for.
If you see your child placing their fingers in the back of their mouths and all of a sudden they look like a chipmunk on one side of their face, they could be popping in a Snus pouch. Or if you see them touching their cheek a lot or rolling their tongue around they may be moving a Snus pouch back into place. If you see them swallowing a lot, or taking little white tablets without water, maybe they’re taking a lozenge? The scary thing is you just don’t know, and the crafty way kids are, they can be smoking right in front of you and you’d never know it.
However, if you ever see a smaller version of a teabag that smells like mint or fruit in your child’s possession or if you find a package of tiny white tablets that are not pills your child regularly takes, perhaps you may be onto something. The Snus eventually has to be thrown out, so if you ever see your child taking something from their mouth and dropping it in the trash, go over and inspect and see what you find. Knowing what you’re looking for can give you an edge.
I suggest all parents to go out and buy these products so they know what they are looking for. So you can recognize the packaging and the products yourself, and know how they smell, feel, and what they look like in the mouth. I think parents should try them as well, to see how tolerable they really are. It’s eye-opening. The more you know, the more you can actually protect your kids.