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E-cigarette Poisoning From Liquid Nicotine On the Rise

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E-cigarettes — battery-powered devices that let users inhale nicotine-infused vapors — now account for more than 40 percent of all poison center calls about cigarette-type products, according to a report published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (NBC News 4/3/14)

According to the CDC study there were 215 reported poisonings due to ingestion of e-cigarette fluids in February of this year. According to the report 51% of the calls involved children 5 and under. From September 2010 to February 2014 there were 2,405 calls related to e-cigarettes to the nation’s 55 poison control centers and about 16, 248 calls related to traditional cigarettes. There was only one reported poisoning from tobacco products in the month of September 2010.

“This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes – the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue.  E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.”

The debate still goes on as to the possible health benefits of e-cigarettes. Manufacturers claim these e-cigs will help people switch from the more dangerous traditional cigarettes. Yet, as I reported more recently, the concern is rising as middle school children, who have never smoked a traditional cigarette, are beginning to take up the trendy ‘vaping’—the term used to describe the smoking of the e-cigarettes.   These children may not realize the potential dangers of handling the nicotine solutions.

Poison centers are getting calls about the liquid being spilled on the skin, mistakenly used as eye drops, or ingested. At least one person committed suicide by injecting the liquid nicotine into his or her veins. The most common adverse health effects mentioned in e-cigarette calls were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Kids are the biggest worry — as little as a teaspoon of highly concentrated liquid nicotine could cause serious harm, said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California poison control system. Reports of poisonings in kids jumped 10-fold at his site in the past 14 months.

“I went online and found some retailers selling concentrations of 7.2 percent nicotine in 100-milliliter bottles,” Cantrell said. “A teaspoon of that solution could potentially kill a child, there’s no doubt.”

The e-cigarette manufacturers continue to claim their products are safe and provide a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. The evidence to support that claim is not available to us yet. However, the CDC report is a strong reminder that nicotine, in any delivery system, is dangerous. The liquid solution sold for e-cigarettes contains pure nicotine, which causes harm to the body when spilled onto the skin, placed in the eyes or ingested.  If you have liquid nicotine in your home and you have children, treat it just like you would any other poisonous product in your house.  The safest way to prevent harm from these products, however, is to keep them out of your home.

4 Comments

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  1. Julian says:
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    The reason such poisonings are “on the rise” is that until a few years ago e-liquid didn’t exist! There were 1,351 calls for nicotine “poisoning” in 2013. In 2012 , 20,306 calls for toothpaste poisoning, 11,848 were caused by pens/ink, 193,443 involved household cleaning agents, and 54,445 alcoholic beverages, I’m an electronic cigarette user. Not everyone who uses these devices uses e-liquid that contains nicotine. There are people who like the flavors without nicotine. If you visit a reputable U.S. retailer of electronic cigarettes and supplies, like http://www.southbeachsmoke.com, you can see the list of e-liquid ingredients (nicotine, glycerin and propylene glycol based which is rated GRAS. i.e. safe, by the FDA). A nicotine level must be ordered; a level between 0mg-24mg. The average e-cig user uses an e-liquid with 6-12mg nicotine, and it’s the same nicotine used in nicotine gum paid for by Medicare.I welcome FDA regulation–everyone wants safe products. But its the parents’ responsibility to keep toxins away from their children.

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    What this article failed to point out is that in total there were approximately 172,800 calls that came in from poisoning from medicines, household cleaning products and pesticides. The e-liquids are not anymore dangerous then these products in the household. Our company uses proper labeling and child proof caps in glass bottles. http://www.nekvapor.com Really one should wonder if the author is really concerned about children then why not raise the legal age of cigarettes to 21? But these bills like the one that was brought to the House in Vermont was voted down. Why you ask? Because the state was going to lose 2.3 million dollars in tax revenue. The states are in the tobacco business and they make millions from it. They are losing revenue because people are switching from combustable cigarettes to electronic vaping devices. This is nothing but yellow journalism to attack the Vaping industry and demonize it in order to shift the tax revenue generation. If you are so concerned about safety of our children then why not write and article that investigates why states are against moving the smoking age to 21. Vape on!

  3. thomas M says:
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    comment>>> These children may not realize the potential dangers of handling the nicotine solutions.

    so lets educate the children of proper handling of solution

  4. thomas M says:
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    so lets educate the children