Candy and Kool-Aid share same chemicals as flavoured tobacco: study

What do sugary sweet candies and flavoured tobacco have in common? Scientists say they share similar chemicals - and it's by no coincidence. Paul Rowand / Global News

TORONTO – What do candies, sugary sweet Kool-Aid and flavoured tobacco have in common? They may all entice young consumers, but scientists are also warning that the trio share similar chemicals.

U.S. researchers who studied treats such as LifeSavers, Jolly Ranchers and Kool-Aid say that their chemical makeup overlaps with that of flavoured tobacco products like cigarillos and rolling papers dubbed as “blunt wraps.” And the scientists say it’s by no coincidence.

The Portland State University researchers suggest that these candy-flavoured tobacco products are meticulously crafted to mask the bitter taste of tobacco while getting youth hooked.

“The same, familiar, chemical-specific flavour sensory cues that are associated with fruit flavours in popular candy and drink products are being exploited in the engineered designs of flavoured tobacco products,” the researchers wrote in their analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Read the full study here.

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They studied about 12 candies and fruit drinks along with 15 widely-available flavoured tobacco products. One finding, for example, found a “significant” overlap between the chemicals in cherry Kool-Aid and a “Wild Cherry” cigarette.

(Most of these products come in cherry, grape, apple, peach, berry and bubblegum flavours.)

In Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society has called on health officials to ban all flavoured tobacco products because they come in bright packaging and youth-friendly flavours.

READ MORE: Candy-flavoured tobacco products enticing Canadian students to take up smoking, survey says

Its latest data on Canadian high school students had suggested that more than half of teens from Grade 9 to Grade 12 tried the products. That’s about 169,300 teens.

“There’s a series of flavoured tobacco products that are widely available and popular among youth and that are a big concern to us,” Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society, told Global News.

“These flavours can lead to kids becoming addicted. We need to do everything we can to reduce underage tobacco use,” he said.

Read the national report here.

They’re products like water pipe tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and menthol cigarettes. Right now, federal laws ban flavoured cigarettes except for menthol and blunt wraps and cigarillos, which are cigars weighing 1.4 grams or less. But tobacco companies have managed to find a loophole with cigarillos – instead, they produce flavoured cigars that are 1.5 grams or so.

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“Menthol soothes the throat and reduces the harshness of cigarette smoke for youth who are experimenting,” Cunningham said.

Point the products out to adults and they won’t recognize them, he suggested. But kids are familiar with the flavoured tobacco products, which are readily available in convenience stores.

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