| Nicotine water for
smokers could hook kids
By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
A bottled water mixed with nicotine may soon be hitting drug and
convenience-store shelves nationwide, and anti-smoking activists question its safety and
potential for addicting children.
Nico Water, to be sold in $2 half-liter bottles beginning next
month, is the latest in a string of new tobacco products that has included candy-flavored
cigarettes and nicotine lollipops. It looks and tastes like regular water.
The product's Web site touts it as a "safe nicotine drink for
smokers trying to quit and smokers prohibited from smoking" in restaurants, offices
and airplanes. "It takes away the desire for a cigarette, and you don't have to feel
like a second-class citizen or leper anymore," says Timothy Owens, CEO of Quick Test
Five, the California-based manufacturer. "No one ever died of secondhand water."
Critics are concerned the water could spark or maintain addiction.
"Nicotine water runs a serious potential of both being hazardous and serving as a
first step into addiction with children," says Matthew Myers, president of the
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The group, along with the American Cancer Society and
other health organizations, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration in December to
review the product's safety.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the FDA cannot regulate
cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. But the agency does regulate nicotine gum and patches
because of their health claims that they help people quit smoking. It also regulates
dietary supplements, though less restrictively. Owens says his product is a supplement.
The FDA has yet to decide the matter. "We are still reviewing
the petition," says agency spokeswoman Kathleen Kolar. Last month, the FDA warned
pharmacies selling nicotine lollipops and lipbalm online that the products are illegal and
sales must stop.
Owens says each bottle of Nico Water has 4 milligrams of nicotine,
about as much as a stick of nicotine gum or two cigarettes.
Nicotine is addictive but does not by itself cause cancer.
Cigarettes are carcinogenic because of other ingredients.