Jan. 13 2015
WASHINGTON, DC – Poisoning incidents involving electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine jumped by 156 percent from 2013 to 2014 and have increased more than 14 fold since 2011, new data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows. Calls to poison control centers involving exposures to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine increased to 3,957 in 2014 from 1,543 in 2013 and 271 in 2011 (according to the AAPCC, the preliminary 2014 data will be updated as poison centers update their reports).
More than half the calls involved a child under the age of six. Last month, a one-year-old child in Fort Plain, N.Y., became the first person in the United States to die accidentally from swallowing nicotine liquid. Before the month was out, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill requiring that liquid nicotine be sold in childproof containers.
The alarming jump in poisoning calls, along with recent surveys showing youth e-cigarette use is on the rise, underscore the urgent need for the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen and finalize its proposed rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. The White House must make it a priority to issue a final rule and to do so no later than April 25, 2015 – one year after the FDA issued its proposed rule. It is also critical that the FDA strengthen its proposed rule by cracking down on marketing and flavors that appeal to kids and requiring childproof packaging for nicotine liquids.
It is unacceptable that products that can be addictive and toxic are being sold without any federal regulations to stop them from being marketed and sold to kids and without requirements for safety warnings and childproof packaging. The FDA first announced in early 2011 that it planned to regulate e-cigarettes, cigars and other unregulated tobacco products, so these important public health protections are long overdue. How many more kids have to be addicted or poisoned by e-cigarettes before our government acts? Our kids can’t wait.
A national survey released last month showed teen use of e-cigarettes surpassing use of regular cigarettes for the first time. The federal government-sponsored Monitoring the Future survey reported that 17.1 percent of 12th graders, 16.2 percent of 10th graders and 8.7 percent of 8th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days (compared to 13.6 percent, 7.2 percent and 4 percent in each grade who reported using a conventional cigarette). In November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette use among high school students tripled between 2011 and 2013.
It’s not surprising that more kids are using e-cigarettes and being poisoned by them as e-cigarettes are being marketed in ways that appeal to kids and sold in child-friendly flavors and colors.
E-cigarettes have been marketed using the same tactics long used to market regular cigarettes to kids, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine ads, and sponsorships of race cars and concerns. Despite the fact that nicotine is toxic, nicotine liquids used in e-cigarettes are sold in a rainbow of colors with flavors including “vivid vanilla,” “cherry crush,” chocolate, Jolly Rancher, Gummy Bear and Bubble Gum.
Responsibly marketed and properly regulated, e-cigarettes could benefit public health if they help significantly reduce the number of people who use conventional cigarettes and die of tobacco-related disease. But in the absence of FDA oversight, the irresponsible marketing and sale of e-cigarette poses a serious threat to our nation’s kids and health.