Even as the e-cigarette market, or vaporizer market, has grown into a billion-dollar industry, public health experts continue to voice concern over the dangers posed by these popular cigarette alternatives. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of calls to poison control centers over the past four years, including a huge increase in the number of incidents involving children under the age of 5.
According to the report, the number of calls to poison control centers related to e-cigarettes increased from one per month in late 2010 to 215 per month in early 2014. More than half of all calls involved young children.
At issue is the liquid nicotine used in these devices to create the flavored vapor inhaled by users. Nicotine, which is naturally present in tobacco leaves in small amounts, is a highly potent neurotoxin at higher levels. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include abdominal cramping, agitation, rapid breathing, confusion, and in extreme cases, coma and death. As little as a tablespoon of a 10% liquid nicotine formulation can be lethal.
Many parents are unaware of just how dangerous liquid nicotine can be—or how appealing it can be to curious children. E-cigarette nicotine is sold in child-friendly flavors, including bubble gum and gummy bear. It’s vital to keep all liquid nicotine products in a childproof place. Nicotine can be ingested through the mouth or absorbed by the skin and can make a child ill within minutes.
E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA or any other federal organization, meaning there is no quality control for the nicotine, nor are there published guidelines for safety. They are not required to have child-resistant caps or warning labels. While many researchers feel this is a better option than a traditional cigarette, long-term studies are still ongoing to determine the effects of inhaling nicotine alone. They are not an FDA-approved method of smoking cessation.
E-cigarettes have the potential to positively impact the health of traditional smokers as they quit. Unfortunately, their popularity is increasing among non-smokers including children, making public health officials concerned that Americans may be trading one addiction for another. In addition, not all states limit the sale of e-cigarettes to adults, making them available to middle and high school children.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New CDC study finds dramatic increase in e-cigarette related calls to poison centers.
- Medline Plus, Nicotine poisoning.
- The New York Times, Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes.
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