Liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes has been responsible for thousands of poisonings, prompting the federal government to impose regulations.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user—which is commonly referred to as “vaping.” E-cigarettes are a multi-billion-dollar industry that, for years, has flourished outside of federal regulations. Now, amid the recent surge in liquid nicotine poisonings of children, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed rules that would require manufacturers to add warning labels and child-resistant packaging.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 3,783 incidents of liquid nicotine poisonings in 2014, up dramatically from 1,543 in 2013. The Washington Post reports that many of the liquid nicotine poisonings “involve children younger than 6, who can suffer serious health consequences from ingesting the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes.” In December of 2014, a toddler died in New York after swallowing the substance.
Proposed Liquid Nicotine Regulations
The FDA issued a notice, announcing that the agency is seeking public comments on proposed rules for liquid nicotine:
FDA’s assessment of these recent trends has led the agency to seek additional information on whether, based on the acute toxicity of nicotine (up to and including nicotine poisoning), it would be appropriate for the protection of the public health to:
- Warn the public about the dangers of nicotine exposure (especially due to inadvertent nicotine exposure in infants and children); and/or
- Require some tobacco products to be sold in child-resistant packaging.
The public may submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov until August 31, 2015. (Docket No. FDA-2015-N-1514.)
More Teens ‘Vaping’
According to the CDC, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.
“We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it’s an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.”
Many health advocates are opposed to marketing tactics used by e-cigarette manufacturers, including the use of candy and fruit flavors, which they claim target younger smokers. Current regulations forbid cigarette manufacturers from selling similarly flavored cigarettes. Concerns about online sales have also been raised, due to the difficulty of verifying a customer’s age over the Internet.
Safe handling for liquid nicotine
If you choose to use e-cigarettes, we encourage you to do so safely. The American Association of Poison Control Centers offers the following guidelines:
Adults should use care to protect their skin when handling the products, and they should be out of sight and out of the reach of children. Additionally, those using these products should dispose of them properly to prevent exposure to pets and children from the residue or liquid left in the container.
- Protect your skin when handling the products.
- Always keep e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine locked up and out of the reach of children.
- Follow the specific disposal instructions on the label.
Poisoning from the liquid nicotine can happen in one of three ways: by swallowing it; inhaling it; or absorbing it through the skin or membranes in the mouth and lips or eyes. Once it is in a person’s system, nicotine can cause nausea, vomiting or seizures. If you think someone has been harmed by liquid nicotine, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.
Dennis, Brady. “FDA weighs warning labels, child-resistant packaging after surge in liquid nicotine poisonings” Washington Post, June 30, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “E-cigarette use triples among middle and high school students in just one year” www.cdc.gov, April 16, 2015.