Public Health

Attack of the Orbs


"Nicotine is a highly addictive drug," says Harvard public health professor Gregory Connolly, "and to make it look like a piece of candy is recklessly playing with the health of children." Connolly is referring to products like Camel Orbs, flavored pellets made from compressed tobacco powder. With an eye toward proliferating smoking bans, R.J. Reynolds promotes Orbs as a form of tobacco than can be enjoyed "Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace." But Connolly sees them as child enslavers and baby killers, arguing that Reynolds is trying to hook older kids on nicotine to shore up its customer base and that little kids will mistake Orbs for candy, eat them, and die.

The evidence on that first count is rather impressionistic. "The candy-like appearance, added flavors, and easily concealable size of many of these products may be particularly appealing to children and adolescents," says an editorial in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. "They're tobacco candy," says Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). "Everything about them is designed for kids." The New York Times tries to bolster the case that Orbs are a menace to the nation's youth:

Emily A. Kile, 18, a high school senior involved in antismoking efforts in Greenfield, Ind., said, "Kids can sit in class, you know, and use it and nobody would know."

Mike Moran, the police chief of Talent, Ore., 280 miles south of Portland, said he found a group of teenagers last spring sharing Camel Orbs taken from one of their older brothers.

Citing Connolly, the Times also warns that "the nicotine in 10 to 17 orbs could kill an infant." Connolly tries to back up his concern about accidental poisoning with a Pediatrics study that analyzes reports to poison control centers from 2006 to 2008. Connolly and his co-authors find that "smokeless tobacco products were the second most common tobacco products ingested by children." Well, that's one way to put it. Here's another way: All smokeless tobacco products combined accounted for 1,768 cases, less than 13 percent of the tobacco ingestions. And how many of these cases involved Orb-like products, which have been on the market since 2001 (when Star Scientific introduced Arriva)? Connolly et al. do not say, but so far they have managed to identify just one (nonfatal) case involving the Camel product, which was introduced last year.

"The R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company claims that Orbs packaging is child-resistant," the researchers write, "but adults might take multiple pellets out of the container for convenience and unknowingly leave them where infants or children might find and ingest them." Well, yes, they might, and they might do the same sort of thing with vitamins, over-the-counter or prescription drugs, matches, or any number of other potentially hazardous products that children should not eat or play with. That possibility is not usually viewed as grounds for banning these products.

Why do I bring up prohibition? Because the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products, included an amendment introduced by Sen. Merkley that instructs the agency to study dissolvable tobacco pellets and decide within two years whether they should remain on the market. Connolly, who has a long history of exaggerating the hazards posed by smokeless tobacco and resisting its promotion as a safer alternative to cigarettes, is a member of the advisory committee that will help the FDA decide. Laurence R. Deyton, co-author of the Pediatrics editorial worrying that children will be attracted to Orbs and their competitors, is the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.

NEXT: Psychedelic Men

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  1. I still have a bunch of Joe Camel memorabilia from back in the days of camel cash. An insulated mug, a zippo lighter, a beach towel, a set of four pilsner glasses (now down to one due to breakage)…I wanted to get the neon sign but I understand you have to be certified to have lung cancer before they’ll send it to you.

    1. i won a neon Marlboro sign for cashing in miles for a zippo.

  2. regardless of the company’s intentions, little kids will mistake Orbs for candy, eat them, and die.

    The same argument can be used to ban every children’s vitamin or medicine which tastes good enough that parents don’t have to force-feed it. When I was too young to know better, I would happily have overdosed on tasty Flintstone’s vitamins or St. Joseph baby aspirin — which is why my parents kept these items locked away where I couldn’t get them. Really, people, it’s not hard.

    1. I used to drink Robotussin by the bathtub.

      1. As a kid, I loved getting Robitussin. Of course, that was back when it had teh codeine.

      2. Robitussin? Really? That stuff (at least the DM formulation) made me gag… now, Novahistimine was mmm-mmm good, like liquid spearmint candy.

      3. I’m Bender, and I endorse drinking Robotussin. Though I can’t understand why you meatbags like the stuff.

      4. When I was about 16 or 17, I once accidentally OD’d on Robotussin. It wasn’t quite to the point that I was Robotripping, but it was definitely the worst drug-induced moment I’ve ever had in my life.

        That experience is still seared into my brain, and at 30, I’m still scared to chug a dosage of it. It was so bad.

      5. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for the daily cup of grape flavored Dimetapp when I was that age. Awesome stuff.

        1. We here at Wyeth are almost positive that Tulpa’s parents played a much greater role in the upbringing that has made him ‘the man he is today.’

          Please don’t bomb our factories.

    2. Every now and then I’ll have some kind of thing that tastes like that orangey St. Joseph’s aspirin. It’s amazing how that taste gets ingrained into your being.

      1. Orange Julius, dude! There used to be one at Willowbrook, just get on 80 and get your ass out there.

        1. Right on – what inspired my previous post was some sort of creamsicle flavored candy.

        2. Where’s the recipe for how best to Robo-trip, Epi? FAIL

          1. Take 4 tabs of acid, and then have a swig of Robitussin.

            1. Purple micro-drank.

              1. I can remember a time when you could get orange sunshine, windowpane, or purple microdot, but the only chips you could get were plain, or–in some stores–rippled.

                1. LOL.

                  Then Doritos came along. Not yo cheez.

    3. I use to eat flavored vitimins like candy. They’ll give you a hell of a headache.

      1. Hypervitaminosis A

        (Yeah, I know vitamin pills don’t contain vitamin A.)

  3. Orbs are totally amazing.


  4. Wow, Orbs totally rock dude!


  5. You thwarted our child enslavement plans you prohibited chocolate and strawberry flavored cigarettes. What did you expect? Abject surrender?

    We’re evil. We don’t do surrender.

  6. Citing Connolly, the Times also warns that “the nicotine in 10 to 17 orbs could kill an infant.”

    Okay, here’s what I figured out in literally one minute of googling. Aspirin is fatal at approx. 500 mg per kilogram of bodyweight. Bayer sells aspirin in 325-mg caplets. Therefore, six such caplets would be fatal to an 8-lb. baby and ten caplets could kill a child up to 14 lbs. So these orbs are as dangerous as aspirin. Sounds like we definitely need to ban both nicotine orbs AND aspirin . . . for the children, of course.

    1. Banning aspirin makes no sense. Limiting purchases to no more than 2 dose amounts at a time would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

    2. Banning driving makes no sense. Limiting drivers to no more than two trips per day would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

    3. Banning sex makes no sense. Limiting partners to no more than two sex acts per day would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

    4. Banning eating makes no sense. Limiting citizens to no more than two low-calorie meals per day would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

    5. Banning all speech makes no sense. Limiting citizens to no more than two statements per day would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

    6. Banning property makes no sense. Limiting owners to no more than two items of property would provide enough protection for the children without posing an unreasonable burden.

      1. Shut the fuck up, Forrest.

  7. “I need my orb! I want to relax!”

  8. who is giving 10 to 17 orbs to an infant? it tickles my funny bone to think that there is an infant with the motor skills to place 10 to 17 orbs into their mouth.

    1. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re ripped on meth.

  9. Why am I seeing ads to meet real guys?

    1. I see an ad for Lagunitas beer. Reason’s got me pegged on that one.

      1. I see an ad for CVS Photo. I visited CVS Photo on this computer yesterday.

  10. The war against happiness continues.

  11. “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

    – H.L. Mencken

  12. i think more importantly is remembering what the fight against tobacco is. inhaling burning plant matter into your lungs causes cancer. the current available literature shows that nicotine on its own, does not cause cancer. why are the anti-smoking people trying to prohibit nicotine? shouldn’t they be promoting every smokeless delivery method over cigarettes?

    1. Because it’s not about health. It’s about puritanism.

      If it was about health, the government would be subsidizing e-cigarettes.

      1. I hope I can be permitted a lengthy quote on the subject of America, tobacco, and Puritanism:

        The standard of abstract right and wrong apparently is this. That a girl by smoking a cigarette makes herself one of the company of the fiends of hell. That such an action is much the same as that of a sexual vampire. That a young man who continues to drink fermented liquor must necessarily be “evil” and must deny the very existence of any difference between right and wrong. That is the “standard of abstract right and wrong” that is apparently taught in the American home. And it is perfectly obvious, on the face of it, that it is not a standard of abstract right or wrong at all. That is exactly what it is not. That is the very last thing any clear-headed person would call it. It is not a standard; it is not abstract; it has not the vaguest notion of what is meant by right and wrong. It is a chaos of social and sentimental accidents and associations, some of them snobbish, all of them provincial, but, above all, nearly all of them concrete and connected with a materialistic prejudice against particular materials. To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute. We need not be very surprised if the young man repudiates these meaningless vetoes as soon as he can; but if he thinks he is repudiating morality, he must be almost as muddle-headed as his father. And yet the writer in question calmly proposes that we should abolish all ideas of right and wrong, and abandon the whole human conception of a standard of abstract justice, because a boy in Boston cannot be induced to think that a nice girl is a devil when she smokes a cigarette.

        If the rising generation were faced with no worse doubts and difficulties than this, it would not be very difficult to reconcile them to the traditions of truth and justice. But I think the episode is worth mentioning, merely because it throws a ray of light on the moral condition of American Culture, in the decay of Puritanism. And when next we are told that the idealism of America is to set a “standard” by which England must transform herself, it will be well to remember what is apparently meant by a standard and an ideal; and that the fire of idealism seems both to begin and end in smoke.

        Incidentally, I must say I can bear witness to this queer taboo about tobacco. Of course numberless Americans smoke numberless cigars; a great many others eat cigars, which seems to me a more occult pleasure. But there does exist an extraordinary idea that ethics are involved in some way; and many who smoke really disapprove of smoking. I remember once receiving two American interviewers on the same afternoon; there was a box of cigars in front of me and I offered one to each in turn. Their reaction (as they would probably call it) was very curious to watch. The first journalist stiffened suddenly and silently and declined in a very cold voice. He could not have conveyed more plainly that I had attempted to corrupt an honorable man with a foul and infamous indulgence; as if I were the Old Man of the Mountain offering him hashish that would turn him into an assassin. The second reaction was even more remarkable. The second journalist first looked doubtful; then looked sly; then seemed to glance about him nervously, as if wondering whether we were alone, and then said with a sort of crestfallen and covert smile: “Well, Mr. Chesterton, I’m afraid I have the habit.”

        As I also have the habit, and have never been able to imagine how it could be connected with morality or immorality, I confess that I plunged with him deeply into an immoral life. In the course of our conversation, I found he was otherwise perfectly sane. He was quite intelligent about economics or architecture; but his moral sense seemed to have entirely disappeared. He really thought it rather wicked to smoke. He had no “standard of abstract right or wrong”; in him it was not merely moribund; it was apparently dead. But anyhow, that is the point and that is the test. Nobody who has an abstract standard of right and wrong can possibly think it wrong to smoke a cigar. But he had a concrete standard of particular cut and dried customs of a particular tribe.

        -GK Chesterton, ‘On American Morals’, 1929

    2. It’s just a scientistic gloss on what is at its core a moral crusade.

    3. The argument here is that the progression will be as follows:

      1. Addiction to nicotine via Orbs

      2. ??

      3. Start smoking cigarettes

  13. I have a couple of orbs for Greg Connolly.

    Of course I’d much rather share them with Jennifer Connolly.

    1. that’s a pun Mr. Skin can be proud of.

  14. This is where pot will be in 5 years if the “regulate and tax” activists get their way. Sometimes a lightly-enforced ban does less market distortion than ridiculous regulation.

    1. Nuts to that. Legal but regulated would be far superior to illegal. Illegal drugs are regulated, their very production, distribution and use are prohibited under penalty of law.

    2. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m stoned and paranoid every time I see a cop car drive down my street.

      Having a guarantee of no jailtime for selling, purchasing, growing, smoking, or possessing pot does me much more good than leaving it to whims of a cop and the judicial system.

    3. it’s not illegal vs. legal and taxed. The other option is to decriminalize, which means more freedom than legal and taxed.

  15. Apparently anything an adult might enjoy must have completely generic packaging.

  16. I’m givin’ a knee-jerk thumbs down to anything that’s justified in those terms these days. I won’t condone child proofing the world, ’cause that’s the same world I live in, and I don’t want to be treated like a child.

    It’s just one small step, really, going from restricting the choices of adults for the sake of children to treating adults like children for the good of society generally.

    It starts with forcing individuals to make sacrifices for children because that’s what’s good for society, but it ends with not being able to qualify for a home loan–that someone else wants to give you–because some government consumer protection agency’s decided you’re too much of a risk for the good of society.

    No one should be forced to take risks they don’t want, and anybody who knowingly sells tobacco products to children without their parent’s knowledge should probably be arrested, but my right to make choices for myself really is more important than either children or society generally.

    I guess I’m just a rotten bastard!

  17. a high school senior involved in antismoking efforts

    I will never understand why some people start the nannying so early. There was a group of losers at my highschool who crusaded to get a “drug-free zone” (ie, harsher penalties) created, did lame anti-smoking and drinking campaigns and other bullshit to render them a completely unfuckable caste.

    1. What Dagny, you didn’t find Positively Acting Teens to be attractive?

    2. I think it’s taught, isn’t it?

      I remember being told to go home and tell my parents we needed to have a fire emergency plan and plant a tree for Arbor Day. …and that was in a private school.

      It’s an excellent argument against public education, really. How many people really want their kids being used as public service announcements?

    3. They were unfuckable before they got involved with licking the nannie’s assholes.

      They are called kiss-ups and you knew who they were by the third grade.

      1. You sound like Bet Midler in Drowning Mona.

    4. Nannying is a lifestyle; you have to get started early. Also, see Mencken quote above.

      1. True. It’s kids like these that end up in professions that depend on forcing encouraging people what to do for their own good. Professions such as teaching, law enforcement, social workers, MPH’s, and of course, politicians.

        1. en retard

    5. Sounds a lot like the people at the christain school. Who told the principal that I was a satan worshipper. What was their proof I was a satanist? Because I listened to secular music & wore alot of black clothes. I was suspended for three days for having a Circle Jerks cd in my locker.

      1. That is suppose to read *the christian school I went to.*

        I really need to preview before I post.

    6. I doubt that it is so much about genuinely held beliefs as it is about making your college application look good. I had a friend who was a member of Students Against Drunk Driving, and she was the first in my class to get a DUI.

  18. Emily A. Kile, 18, a high school senior involved in antismoking efforts in Greenfield, Ind.

    You are so getting beat up tomorrow.

      1. Hmmmm.

        I’d hit it.

        And then smoke a cigarette afterwards.

      2. Is she tripping balls? Her eyes are wicked dilated.

  19. Have you ever read the warning label on a tube of toothpaste?

    “WARNINGS: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek PROFESSIONAL HELP or contact a POISON CONTROL center immediately.”

    1. In higher concentrations, flouride was used as rat poison.

      1. Dead Rat’s White Teeth. That’s a band I check out.

      2. True. Good Old Stannous Flouride.

    2. Once when we were drunk in high school we actually called that line and told them we ate toothpaste and were worried. They put us through to a nurse, lotsa laughs.

  20. Nicotine is one helluva drug.

  21. This is where pot will be in 5 years if the “regulate and tax” activists get their way. Sometimes a lightly-enforced ban does less market distortion than ridiculous regulation.

    If we ever get a lightly-enforced ban on pot . . . .

    it would still be worse than this.

    1. It think employers will effectively kill any legalization of pot. Smoke pot? No job for you.

      1. The free market would punish employers for discriminating against pot smokers, just like it would punish employers who discriminate against African-Americans and gays. Where is your faith in the Market?


  22. Has anyone heard of the same tactic being applied to alcohol? It comes in pretty much every flavor available in candy, and then some.

    Next up, Luden’s Cough drops.

    1. you never got tanked off Scope as a kid?

      1. Not unless Scope was sold under the name TJ Swan.

  23. Also, those Orbs don’t look particularly like candy to me. They look like pills. Who the fuck eats gray candy?

    1. every Canadian kid ate Thrills candy. It tasted like soap!

      So, the colour is not a deal-breaker.

      1. Yeah but Canadian kids are retarded so that doesn’t count.

        1. Can it be worse than Horehound candy? That stuff was nasty.

          1. Those fucking candy dots printed on rolls of paper are the worst candy ever.

            1. Funny, I was just thinking of those this morning. How odd.

            2. I’d have to go with Necco wafers as the worst candy ever. The berry flavored antacids I use nowadays easily beat them for taste and texture.

            3. I disagree J sub. Worst candy I remember the was the wax bottle with the juice. That stuff made me so sick. And no, I didn’t eat the wax.;-)

              That and anything with coconut.

        2. What about C. Howard’s Violets. They taste like flower petals for Chris’sakes.

        3. pointless offensive comment.. the internet lives on

          1. But they are funny as hell when they grow up.

    2. “”Also, those Orbs don’t look particularly like candy to me.””

      Keep in mind, you’re talking about people who look at everything as if it’s made for kids. I never found anything about Camel Joe that was aimed at kids. They used the cartoon angle as if all cartoons are for kids. Where ever I heard that, I would chime in, like Fritz the Cat?

      1. While I understand (and agree with) your point, I hated, hated, hated Fritz the Cat. Random events rendered in sub-par animation attempting to substitute shock value for story, plot, and characterization. It’s not even worth watching when you’re high.

  24. Look, can we just ban this thing already? This slow slope is getting tiring. Just effing ban tobacco. The intent is pretty clear. And let the black market flourish.

    1. If they ban it, they can’t tax it.

      I would love to see the tobacco companies play hard ball and threaten to leave the US market.

      1. This would play right into their hands; they would claim victory that they have slain the dragon of tobacco. And, as an added bonus, display their “sincerity” by offering to pay, with other people’s money, for the retraining of the displaced tobacco workers (probably as pube-sec employees).

    2. Yeah, banning stuff has a real good track record.

      Why don’t they just ban murder so we can live in peace?

      1. No. We need to ban crime. That would solve all of our problems.

        1. When we start trying to ban added salt, trans fats, and most recently added sugar, most of our real problem must be solved already.

        2. But if we banned crime, just think of all of the cops who would be out a job…

      2. Do you not see how your post deconstructs itself brother? Think about it, you wouldn’t lift a ban on murders thinking you would get less murders, would you?

        1. Although there would be a huge disincentive to commit murder. It’s called revenge and it would be legal also.

        2. Preach it, brother!

  25. When I was a kid I mainlined acid and smoked PCP every day. What is the big deal about some pills?

  26. Anyone with the term “public health” in their title should be shipped to Africa or some other region with real health concerns.

    1. Reason had a great article a few years ago on the history of public health. They lauded much of their original actions, like fighting malarial swamps, and then said the movement went to a darker place.

      1. That is because they did all the easy stuff and fulfilled their purpose but still wanted jobs and something to do.

        1. It seemed they once fought things that were bad for you but which you did not want in your life, now they go after things that are admittedly bad for people but the people themselves want the thing. I guess if you just focus on the “health” concept to the exclusion of other issues, like respecting of the autonomy of others you can get there. I don’t think this is good for liberals to associate with, things that the poor like they should get…

          1. “””It seemed they once fought things that were bad for you but which you did not want in your life,”””

            Public health was about how your health would affect other people’s health. Like TB infections.

            1. When taken to the next step, when the premise is we are a collective village, then any aspect of your personal health becomes the concern of the public, regardless if the etiology of health issue truly affects others.

              I know quite a few folks with MPH after their name and their personal philosophy and approach to public health would make any statist beam with pride.

        2. If they’re looking for something to do, about a million African kids shit themselves to death every year due to lack of access to clean water. Doing something about that, however, might require getting icky and going to Africa (and the pay wouldn’t be as good), so I can see how lecturing people about avoiding ill health at age 60 and beyond in the midst of a wealthy society is more attractive.

          1. It works for celebrities. All of the faux concern and none of the legwork. Or getting icky and going to low income neighborhoods and rural areas as well.

  27. I’d never heard of these, and I want to try some because I like drugs, so I looked them up. Found this:

    R.J. Reynolds released Camel Orbs in selected cities: at Super Speedways in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana, and at The Plaid Pantry in Portland, Oregon.


    One of those towns is a well-known white-separatist puritan stronghold. You can recognize the teetotal racist cult’s members by this bizarre tribal symbol appended to their names: (D-Ore)

    “Let’s test-market our drug-laced Satan-Tacs to them!”


  28. If PM had any stones, they would re-brand these things as “Satan-Tacs”. And, extend the line to include a version with extra nicotine – “Drug-Laced Satan-Tacs”.

    1. There was at least a few years ago a brand of cigarettes in England called “Deathshead”. They embraced the required government warnings as a selling point.

      1. Ha ha. Someone should come out with “Coffin Nail Cigarettes” and shape the box like a coffin.

        Every goth would dump their cloves in a heartbeat…

        1. That sounds dangerously close to stealing Dennis Leary’s material.

          1. you mean Bill Hicks

            1. Indeed sir, well said.

            2. Oh I see, everyone wants to talk about Bill Hicks now, where were you fuckers six months ago? Huh?

              Milky lickers!

  29. On an unrelated matter, do people here believe this stuff about drinking and antibiotics, that the former “lessens the effectiveness” of the latter? I mean, how much “lessens” are we talking about here?

  30. so uh semi-offtopic, has anyone tried them?

    I typically smoke camel lights, but when i can’t smoke I use Stonewalls (which are basically the same thing as the orbs).

    As a Camel man, I’d much rather buy the orbs than the not exactly brandname Stonewalls, especially if they taste better.

  31. I used to dip Copenhagen Long Cut back before I wised up, at least it didn’t make you look like a pussy like walking around with this stuff will.

  32. The real story here is the very existence of Gregory Connolly’s job.

    Harvard students: When you start paying off those gonzo loans in a few years, just think of how all that money went to support “public health professors” and other such essential personnel.

  33. What if we just kill all the children?

    It would make life so much simpler, and more pleasant.

  34. I don’t understand. Why is nicotine gum OK with these people?

    1. Because it is marketed as part of a smoking cessation program. Though in my experience I find the efficacy of that claim questionable.

  35. Citing Connolly, the Times also warns that “the nicotine in 10 to 17 orbs could kill an infant.”

    What’s his point. I’ve got a few old Percocet pills in my medicine cabinet that would undoubtedly kill an infant, too.

    1. Even one Orb can be lethal to an infant if you fire it from an assault rifle.

  36. Infants can easily crawl into unattended microwave ovens, close the door behind them and suffocate. Or a dog can come by and hit a button with its nose, and then fry the baby. Something to lie awake and think about all night, Mr. Connolly.

    1. That is disgusting. Everyone knows that babies are ruined if you cook them in a microwave — you need to use a rotisserie.

      1. Neonate culinary FAIL. Pan broiling and sauteeing are best methods of cooking infants. Tarragon and garlic are the optimal spices as well.

  37. Je ne mangerai jamais de d?ner avec vous

    1. I’ll never eat dinner with you

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