The results of a survey published in the Pediatrics Journal Of The American Academy found that a growing number of teenagers are turning to tobacco-free gummies, lozenges, and chewing gum to get their nicotine fix.
The researchers surveyed 3,500 high school students in California and found that more than three percent of the respondents said they had used oral nicotine products before, and nearly two percent said they had used them in the past six months.
While the survey did not ask students why they choose to eat nicotine-infused candy, the researchers believe the candy-like products are more enticing to adolescents.
“These are a new type of nicotine product,” Alyssa Harlow, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine who conducted the research, said, according to NBC News.
“They come in a number of sweet flavors, and several of these products do resemble candy, which may create a sense of familiarity for youth,” she added. “They’re also quite discreet and very easy to conceal from authority figures. And then the brands are using really modern packaging designs, and they are engaging in digital and social media marketing campaigns.”
E-cigarettes are still the most popular tobacco-free product for teens, with nearly ten percent saying they have tried e-cigarettes and more than five percent admitting to using them in the past six months.
While nicotine-infused candies and e-cigarettes are supposed to be sold only to people over 21, teens are still able to get their hands on them.
“In-store sales are actually quite common,” Lauren Czaplicki, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News. “Online sales are pretty common, too.”