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E-cigarettes and Liquid Nicotine: Are They Safe to Use Around Kids?

May 10, 2016

You already know that secondhand smoke from cigarettes is bad for your kids, but do you know about the dangers of e-cigarettes? Since e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other similar devices hit the U.S. market several years ago, their popularity has skyrocketed.

While we don’t know a lot about the long term effects of using e-cigarettes or the effects of secondhand vapor, we do know that liquid nicotine is dangerous to children. Liquid nicotine is the fluid used to fill e-cigarettes. It comes in colors and flavors (like chocolate cake, gummy bear, cotton candy, etc) that can be appealing to children and national poison control centers are now getting about 7 calls every day about young kids who swallow or touch liquid nicotine.

What worries me is when I see parents and other people storing their e-cigarette and liquid nicotine refill bottles in places that young children can easily get into. The e-cigarettes or their refill bottles often end up in purses and backpacks which get thrown on the floor or the couch. Sometimes people leave e-cigarettes in their car or just laying out on the coffee table. This is dangerous because young children are curious and want to see, feel, and taste everything around them, and it only takes a sip of liquid nicotine to potentially cause serious medical effects, including coma, seizures, stopped breathing, or even death.

Here are some tips for parents and child caregivers to help children stay safer around liquid nicotine:
  • Store e-cigarettes and refill products where children cannot see or reach them – in a locked location is best. Do not store them in a purse, which children can easily access.
  • Use and refill alone. Do not use e-cigarettes around children. Because children like to imitate adults, using e-cigarettes and refilling them with children nearby could lead to a dangerous exposure. The images, smells, and colors may be attractive to them.
  • Refill, clean, and dispose of products safely. Wear rubber gloves when handling liquid nicotine. Clean up spills right away with paper towels. Get rid of leftover liquid by pouring it into a bag of kitty litter or coffee grounds. Put empty liquid nicotine containers, papers towels, and any other waste into the bag, and throw it away in a trash can kids can’t open. Once everything is in the trash, wash your hands.
  • Save the national Poison Help Line number (1-800-222-1222) in your cell phone and post it near your home phones.

If you have young children, be aware of the people in their lives who use e-cigarettes. If it’s a family member or caregiver, make sure they store their e-cigarette and liquid nicotine safely.

Read more about the latest liquid nicotine study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, here.

Featured Expert

Dr Gary Smith CIRP
Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Dr. Gary Smith is a Professor of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at The Ohio State University. He is founder and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

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