Calls to poison centers related to nicotine-containing e-cigarette liquid skyrocketing

April 4, 2014, 7:57 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results from a study showing that reported exposures to nicotine-containing e-cigarette liquid have risen dramatically over the last several years.

Their data indicates that in September 2010, U.S. poison centers received just a single call related to these liquids. In February 2014, that number had increased to 215 calls for the month.

Over half the calls involved children less than 5 years of age. Routes of exposure included ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through skin or eyes. The refill liquids, that can contain more than the minimal dose of nicotine that can be lethal to a toddler, are often formulated with fragrances such as bubblegum, strawberry, and coconut that young children might find attractive. Although it is not clear from the summary how many of the poison center calls involved patients with manifestations of nicotine toxicity, the most frequent adverse effects reported were nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation.

No surprise here — the report is a bit of a “Duh!.” Since sales in the so-called “vape” industry are increasing exponentially, it would have been strange if the number of exposures hadn’t grown dramatically. However, poison center calls are not poisonings, and I’m still not sure how great a risk significant nicotine toxicity from these products represents.

Possibly a greater problem is that, as of this posting, the entire industry is unregulated. There is no guarantee that the dose of nicotine contained in a refill liquid could be much higher than advertised. The user can also not be sure what other chemicals are contained in the product, or possible lung effects. In addition, there is no requirement that packaging be child-proof.

The FDA is expected to correct this situation in the very near future when they issue a ruling establishing their authority to regulate e-cigarettes.


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