E-Cig Liquid Nicotine Poisoning Problems for Children Need More Than Regulations: Experts

Amid continuing popularity of e-cigarettes, experts are raising serious concerns over the risk of child poisonings from liquid nicotine exposure. 

In an article issued by the Penn State College of Medicine late last month, Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences, noted that nicotine poisoning is nothing new, but the concentrated liquid nicotine used with vapes and electronic cigarettes could be particularly lethal to children.

Unlike most other tobacco products, liquid nicotine comes in flavors that could smell particularly appealing to small children, like cookies’n’cream or strawberry. Usually one taste of tobacco is enough for a child to be deterred from tasting it again. However, with liquid nicotine the tobacco can be so concentrated that even a small amount could be lethal.

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Raising concerns further is the fact that such bottles are usually not child-proof, allowing children easy access. Several weeks ago the FDA published a notice that it would soon propose new rules on liquid nicotine exposure warnings and child resistant packaging.

“There are hundreds of cases of poisoning from cigarettes every year, and so all nicotine products, including cigarettes, should be in childproof packages,” Foulds said. “All nicotine is a poison as are all tobacco products containing nicotine, so people using any of them should take great care to keep them out of reach of kids.”

At least one child death has been linked to liquid nicotine exposure. In December 2014, a one-year-old in Fort Plain, New York, reportedly died after ingesting liquid nicotine from a glass bottle that did not have a childproof cap.

In the April 2014 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, federal health officials noted that poison control centers are increasingly receiving reports involving liquid nicotine exposure events among children, as the popularity of vaping grows.

The study, which looked at trends from 2010 to 2014, found that calls to poison centers linked to e-cigarettes went from 0.3% of calls in September 2010 to 41.7% of calls by February 2014.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014, it received 3,783 reports of electronic cigarette and liquid nicotine exposures. Slightly more than half of those exposures occurred in children under the age of six.

Teen E-Cig Concerns

According to data released from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, about 2 million high school students in the U.S. now use e-cigarettes. They are the most frequently used form of tobacco by middle school students as well.

In just the last year, the number of teens using electronic cigarettes tripled, while the rate of teens smoking more conventional cigarettes declined.

While the FDA has not implemented any rules concerning prohibitions on e-cigarettes nationally, many areas have enacted laws concerning the products.

New York banned the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants and other public places. Many other states have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and California health officials issued a statement calling e-cigarettes a major health risk.

E-cigarette and vape advertising has come under fire by many who say they appear to be targeting teens. This includes using celebrities and television ads. Cigerattes have not been advertised on U.S. television since they were banned during the Nixon administration. Other tactics include offering e-cigarettes in a wide array of candy-like flavors, which some critics say is designed to entice teens to use the products.

The FDA was given the authority to regulate tobacco and nicontine products in 2009 by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.


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