E-Cigarette Poisonings in Children Rising Rapidly, Study Says

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

The number of calls to poison control centers concerning children's exposure to e-cigarettes has increased significantly in the past few years, according to new data.

Randy Dotinga of HealthDay writes that it seems to researchers that the devices cause worse health consequences for kids than traditional cigarettes. The most dangerous threat is the nicotine liquid found inside the vaping devices.

"If this were an infectious disease, this would be headlines across the country," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy in Ohio.

"E-cigarettes and liquid nicotine can cause serious poisoning, and even death, among young children," he said. "Like other dangerous poisons, they should be kept out of sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked location."

Smith added that children's e-cigarette poisonings had increased 1,500% from 2012 to 2015.

Published on May 9 in the journal Pediatrics, the study results followed a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors last week. The US Food and Drug Administration cited numerous health concerns for vulnerable children.

Two percent of the e-cigarette cases involved moderate effects (71 cases) or major effects (5 cases) to the children. There was one documented death. In nearly half the cases there was no effect, and 22% of the cases resulted in minor consequences. Some other instances were not clear as to effects.

But George Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said the e-cigarette scare has been exaggerated. He said the child who died had ingested homemade nicotine liquid that was much more concentrated than retail liquids found in the US. He continued by pointing out that laundry pods and prescription medications caused much bigger risks to children. He also explained that most nicotine vaping liquid is stored in a child-resistance packaging.

The Associated Press stated that researchers said the results of their study make clear the need for parents to be more aware of keeping the vaping devices out of sight and reach of kids. The study team recommended stricter regulations and praised the US Food and Drug Administration's ban.

The report reviewed calls to poison centers concerning nicotine and tobacco product exposure in children under age six from January 2012 to April 2015. The researchers were most troubled by the fact that the vaping products are sometimes packaged in colorful wrapping and have child-attracting flavors.

The symptoms that occur from swallowing the liquid or absorbing the liquid nicotine into the skin include vomiting, fast heartbeat, and jittery behavior. Calling poison centers when exposure is expected is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of the children who needed medical care, fewer than 3% were taken to a hospital, and 2% had severe complications which included comas, seizures, and breathing issues.

During the 40-month period that the study took place, over 17,500 kids were exposed to cigarettes and over 4,000 young ones were exposed to e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine, also called "e-juice."

CNN's Sandee LaMotte reports that the FDA declined to limit the number of flavorings in the e-cigarettes, but said they would look into the issue at a later time.

In the end, parents must do all they can to keep the devices and the liquids away from children. Do not refill products in front of kids, said Smith, and do not smoke the devices around young ones. Smith advises to keep the Poison Help Line number posted near home phones and in personal cell phones. The Help Line number is: 1-800-222-1222.

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