The growing popularity of e-cigarettes has led to a jump in calls to Florida poison centers involving children swallowing liquid nicotine.
From January 2012 to December 2013, Florida poison centers received 66 calls about children and teenagers ingesting liquid nicotine used to fill e-cigarettes, according to the Florida Poison Information Center-Miami. Since January 2013, there have been nine cases in South Florida of children exposed to liquid nicotine with the children ranging in age from 14 months to 4 years old.
As part of the ongoing child safety “What If?” initiative, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and Safe Kids Palm Beach County want to call parents’ attention to the increasing risk of e-cigarettes and offer some tips.
The rise in calls to Florida poison centers mirrors what’s going on nationwide. The number of calls to poison centers in the United States involving liquid nicotine jumped from just one in September 2010 to 215 in February, according to a recent U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention study. A little more than half of the cases involved children under 5 years old.
The e-cigarette industry estimates that more than 3.5 million e-cigarettes are now sold annually, compared to about 50,000 sold in 2008. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate cigarettes, turning liquid nicotine into a vapor mist.
“Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden after nationwide figures on poisoning cases were released last week. “E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.”
A fear is that since liquid nicotine can come in such flavors as chocolate or blueberry, small children may try to drink the product, said Wendy Stephan, health education coordinator at Florida Poison Information Center-Miami. An increased dose could lead to seizures and even death if the concentration of nicotine is high enough and the child consumes enough relative to body weight.
“This is certainly something we’re watching,” Stephan said. “We see the potential for a fatal poisoning.”
She said that besides young children swallowing the liquid, the Florida Poison Information Center has learned of older children who ingest liquid nicotine thinking they could get high from it.
None of the nine cases in South Florida since January 2013 resulted in hospitalizations.
Here are some tips if you are using e-cigarettes:
- Always keep e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine out of children’s reach and out of sight.
- Follow the disposal instructions on the label.
- Protect your skin when handling liquid nicotine.
- If you think a child has been exposed to an e-cigarette or liquid nicotine, immediately call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
In general, all nicotine products- such as lozenges, patches, gums and cigarette butts- need to be kept out of children’s reach and out of sight, Stephan said.
To learn more about poisonings related to e-cigarettes or have someone talk on camera, please contact Jon Burstein at 561-374-7616 (office) or 561-703-2192 (cell).
The What If? campaign is a child safety initiative by the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County to provide parents and caregivers vital, life-saving information that protects children in the home and in the community. What If? campaign partners include: Drowning Prevention Coalition of Palm Beach County, Florida Department of Children & Families, Palm Beach County Government, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, Palm Beach County Health Department, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Safe Kids Palm Beach County, Safety Council of Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County School District and many other child safety advocates.
Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County provides leadership, funding and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.
Jon Burstein, Communications Specialist
Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County
(O) 561-374-7616; (C) 561-703-2192