PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio - They're being called amazing, magical and cool. They can get your kids high, and it's all perfectly legal. Tom Meyer, The Investigator, reported on a new street high that would probably make most parents fume.
Everyone knows that marijuana is illegal, but now, there's a hot-selling item that is said to smell, feel and taste like pot, and there's nothing illegal about it.
It's called "ecstacy," which is not to be confused with the dangerous and illegal party pill with the same name, but slightly different spelling.
Ecstacy is a tobacco-free cigarette that is promoted as a magical aphrodisiac that gives you an effect similar to nicotine.
"They market them as 'not pot, but looks like pot -- relaxing,'" assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor Rick Bell said.
Narcotics officers recently discovered ecstacy cigarettes at a Downtown Cleveland nightclub. The hot-selling smokes do not contain tobacco or the lethal ecstasy drug. Rather, they're an herbal cigarette whose ingredients include wild lettuce, catnip and passionflower.
Patti Valensic is a volunteer drug educator at a local high school.
"It's smoking," she said. "It's a cigarette, and we don't know what kind of damage it's going to do to their lungs, much less their nervous system."
Interestingly, the words "smoking kills" and the surgeon general's warning are voluntarily displayed on the box.
Just how easy is it for kids to buy ecstacy cigarettes? 19/43 News was there when a 15-year-old called "Mary" went shopping online for the smokes. She had a variety of Web sites to choose from within minutes. She just clicked on her mouse, and bought three packs for $18.
"It wasn't difficult at all," Mary said. "I just went to the Web site, picked which kind of ecstacy that I wanted and bought it."
There's nothing to stop kids from buying them at local stores either. The Tobacco Company in Parma Heights said that its policy is not to sell herbal ecstacy to anyone under 18 years old.
19/43 News, however, had a 17-year-old equipped with a hidden camera try to purchase a pack at the Parma Heights store, and he had no problem.
When confronted, a Tobacco Company clerk apologized for another employee's mistake.
Because they so closely resemble marijuana, ecstacy cigarettes have been outlawed in Australia.