E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular and widely available. Within 10 years they are expected to outsell tobacco based cigarettes. While they have been marketed as safer than tobacco cigarettes, whether they are safe remains open for debate. Since 2010 more than 2000 cases of poisoning from e-cigarettes have been reported to poison centers with more than 90 serious cases and one death.
E-cigarettes were initially marketed as an aid to help quit smoking (similar to nicotine patches), but things have changed. They are now widely marketed on TV, by celebrities and there is concern they are being marketed to adolescents. E-cigarettes can often be used indoors because the exhaled “smoke” is not really smoke but rather is water vapor (hence the term “Vaping”). And the e-cigarettes come in more than 100 flavors including chocolate, amaretto, gummy bear strawberry and even peanut butter.
There are two major concerns. The first is nicotine is highly addictive. In fact nicotine is one of the most addictive substances available. Ask anyone who has tried to quit smoking how addictive nicotine can be. The e-cigarettes is a “nicotine delivery system”. If adolescents begin using these e-cigarettes, because they are perceived as safe and “harmless” and even “cool”, there is concern they are starting a life time of addiction to the nicotine.
A much more dangerous concern is the younger children getting into the “E-Juice” used to refill the e-cigarette cartridges. The liquid to refill these devices come in simple small bottles of liquid, with no child resistant closures. And the amount of nicotine in the little refill bottles is frightening – as much as 100 mg in a teaspoon of the liquid. That is more nicotine than an entire pack of tobacco based cigarettes, and more than enough to cause seizures in a small child. Drinking a small half ounce bottle could be a fatal amount in a toddler. These refill bottles have interesting flavors and aromas to a small child (e.g. Chocolate), and a simple mouthful might be enough to send a child to the hospital ICU. This new product should be kept out of reach of your children. High up and in a locked cabinet are good ideas. If you think your child has ingested do not make them vomit (but they may vomit spontaneously) . Then call the poison center and you will get an expert immediately.
So if you have small children in the home, remember that wonderful curious nature may sometimes get them into trouble. If you have questions call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222. Save the number in your cell phone or call for a free magnet with the poison center number and an information packet how to poison proof your home.
Henry Spiller is the director of the Central Ohio Poison Center. He has spent more than 30 years in toxicology, with more than 300 publications in the field.
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