Parents of Young Children Often Unaware of E-Cig Liquid Nicotine Risks: Study

New research suggests that about one out of every three parents who use electronic cigarettes may be exposing their children to a risk of injury from liquid nicotine, which are often not stored with any childproofing or protection. 

E-cigarette use, or vaping, has increased in popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditionally tobacco cigarettes. However, the rise is popularity has been accompanied by an increase in cases of liquid nicotine poisoning among children who come in contact with the concentrated solutions.

In a study published last month by the medical journal Academic Pediatrics, researchers indicate that the risk of childhood health problems caused by e-cigarette liquid may be much higher than previously believed. Only 26% of homes where at least one person vapes were found to have childproof liquid nicotine containers or other means of protecting children from accessing the e-cig liquid.

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Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis had 658 parents and guardians complete a self-administered paper survey during a visit to one of 15 pediatric offices in the Midwestern practice based research network between June 24, and November 6, 2014.

While e-cigarette use was reported in one in eight homes, 34% of those homes kept the potentially harmful liquid nicotine in a cupboard, 22% kept the liquid in a purse of bag, and 13% in an open container.

Overall, three percent of respondents said a child in their home had tried to drink the e-cigarette liquid.

A total of 74% of people believed the e-cigarette liquid was very dangerous for children if they ingested it. While about 31% believed skin contact of the liquid could be dangerous to a child.

Jane Garbutt, lead author of the study and professor of medicine and pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, reported 21% of survey respondents had tried e-cigarettes at least once, 12% reported e-cigarette use by more than one person in the household and eight percent reported using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Another 17% reported regular cigarette use.

Only 15% of parents or guardians reported that their child’s pediatrician was aware of their e-cigarettes use in the home. Six percent of doctors expressed warnings for safe storage of devices and liquid.

The report revealed most parents do not understand liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes poses a serious threat to young children, especially since the liquid is often times candy or fruit flavored, which is very appealing to children.

Researchers warn consuming one teaspoon of e-cigarette liquid can be deadly to a child and smaller amounts may cause vomiting and nauseas and require emergency care. Even skin contact by liquid nicotine can make a child sick.

Last year, a toddler in New York died after ingesting liquid nicotine that was intended for use in an e-cigarette device. The child gained access to a bottle of liquid nicotine that did not have a childproof cap and ingested the liquid and died.

The study indicated that many caregivers and doctors are also unaware of the dangers liquid nicotine can pose to children, or the steps necessary to protect children from harm. In Europe childproof caps are required on e-cigarette liquid, however no such law exists in the United States.

The FDA recently announced a review into the rules governing liquid nicotine products, after receiving a growing number of reports of poisonings and deaths among children.

Consumer Reports called on the government in 2014 to enact legislation concerning the packaging of e-cigarettes, after an increasing number of poisonings among children were reported. A large number of calls to poison centers regarding vaping and e-cigarettes involve children under the age of five.

Until legislation is enacted forcing childproof caps and protecting children from the potential harms, researchers say pediatricians can provide education concerning e-cigarettes and the safety hazards posed to children.


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