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Poisoning Cases Related to E-Cigarettes Keep Spiraling Upward

September 26, 2014


Across the United States, poison control centers continue to report soaring numbers of accidental poisonings related to the nicotine liquid used in electronic cigarettes.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reports that, through August 31, there have been 2,724 calls so far this year involving exposures to e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine. That is up from 1,542 in 2013, 460 in 2012 and 271 in 2011.

These reports have spurred a growing call by public health organizations and members of Congress to require child-resistant packaging of nicotine liquid products.

In comments filed with the Food and Drug Administration in August, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and 23 other public health and medical organizations urged the agency to require child safety packaging. “The unregulated sale of electronic cigarettes and related nicotine liquids is proving to be a direct and immediate threat to the health of our children,” the groups wrote.

In addition, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee recently approved legislation by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) that would require child-resistant packaging for any liquid nicotine sold to consumers.

These actions come amidst continuing reports from around the country about poisonings related to nicotine liquids:

  • Central Ohio Poison Control officials told the Fox28 television station in Columbus that there have been 85 poisoning incidents so far this year involving children five-years-old and younger, compared to 15 in 2013. “If you tell us, yeah, we’re going to give you liquid nicotine and put flavoring in it and put it in a non-child resistant bottle, then put it out in homes we start to sweat,” Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, told the station.

Why is this happening? Despite the fact that nicotine is toxic, these liquids often come in child-friendly flavors and colors. Nicotine liquids are sold in rainbows of bright containers with flavors including “vivid vanilla,” “cherry crush” chocolate, Jolly Rancher, Gummy Bear and Bubble Gum. Most containers lack warnings or child-proof packaging.

According to a March 2014 report by The New York Times (“Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes”):

These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

But, like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. They are mixed on factory floors and in the back rooms of shops, and sold legally in stores and online in small bottles that are kept casually around the house for regular refilling of e-cigarettes.

(Image source: istockphoto.com)