Critics Fear Nicotine Water for Smokers Could Hook Kids

May 24, 2002

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, reports Wendy Koch in today's USA TODAY.

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.

Source: USA Today