Jolly Ranchers, Kool-Aid, & Flavored Tobacco All Share These Gross Chemicals

Uh-oh. Turns out Lifesavers, Jolly Ranchers, and Kool-Aid have something in common with tobacco products: they actually contain many of the same chemicals. Yuck. A team from Portland State University studied 12 artificially flavored sweets and 15 sweet-flvaored tobacco products, including cigars, cigarillos, and rolling papers. The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveals yet another strategy that the tobacco companies employ to try and hook young people.

Tobacco companies use the same popular flavors that candy and drink brands use, such as cherry, grape, apple, and peach, but the similarities go beyond just labels. The researchers found that chemicals like benzaldehyde, benzyl alcohol, or both were found in cherry-flavored Jolly Ranchers, cherry-flavored Kool-Aid, and all cherry-flavored tobacco products examined. The organic alcohol 1-hexanol was found in all the apple-flavored candy and tobacco products studied.

  • Benzaldehyde: Found in cherry-flavored Life Savers, Kool-Aid, and Skoal Snuff. Also found in shaving gels, creams, and soaps.
  • Benzyl alcohol: Found in cherry-flavored Jolly Ranchers, Kool-Aid, and Zig Zag cigar wraps. Also found in lotions, shampoos, and mascaras.
  • Vanillin: Found in cherry-flavored Kool-Aid and Swisher Sweets cigars. Also found in ice cream, chocolate, vanilla extract, and perfumes.
  • Methyl anthranilate: Found in grape-flavored Kool-Aid and Phillies Blunts. Also found in grape-flavored sodas and gums.
  • 1-hexanol: Found in apple-flavored Jolly Ranchers and Kayak Snuff. Also found in perfumes.
  • Raspberry ketone: This wasn't found in any of the candies or Kool-Aid tested, but it was found in several of the tobacco products and is the key component to a dietary supplement that Dr. Oz endorses.

Even more alarming? Some of the tobacco products contained much higher levels of the chemicals per serving than the candy and drink products, meaning Big Tobacco have found a new way to get young people hooked. "These tobacco products are flavored in the same way as candy and Kool-Aid," lead researcher James Pankow, chemistry professor at PSU, told The Oregonian. "It's no coincidence."

In an FDA news release, the agency wrote: "Almost 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking as teenagers. These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers." The researchers also point out in the journal that the CDC had reported that more than 40 percent of middle and high school students who smoke use flavored tobacco.

This new research could prove instrumental in garnering more tobacco regulation from the federal government. In 2009, the FDA enforced the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which banned U.S. sales of cigarettes with "characterizing flavors" other than menthol, but it did not include non-cigarette tobacco products.