In the last 3 years, there has been an astonishing increase in calls to poison control centers from caregivers and parents of children who have or might have been exposed to liquid nicotine.
From 2012 -2014, accidental exposures to e-cigarettes by children under the age of 6 increased by about 1,500 % according to researchers analyzing nicotine and tobacco product poison control calls.
Children with accidental exposures to e-cigarette liquids were more than five times more likely to be admitted to a medical facility than those exposed to traditional cigarettes and more than twice as likely to have severe medical outcomes, wrote researcher Gary A. Smith, MD, of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues. Their study was published online in the journal Pediatrics.
"These are not trivial exposures. There were comas, seizures, and even one death in the 40-month period we studied, and these exposures were predictable and preventable," Smith told MedPage Today. "E-cigarettes and vaping liquids are products that should never have entered the market without adequate consideration of the harms they could cause to young children."
Not only are children becoming seriously ill because of accidental nicotine poisoning, but children have died from it.
"One death to a 1-year-old child occurred associated with nicotine liquid accessed from an open refill container," the researchers wrote. "Children exposed to e-cigarettes or other tobacco products had higher odds of having a severe outcome than children exposed to cigarettes."
Nicotine is a toxic substance that can cause convulsions, coma, vomiting, irregular heart rhythms, weakness and even death. Before the availability of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, acute nicotine poisoning usually occurred in young children who accidentally chewed on nicotine gum or patches.
The study comes right after two new initiatives have been established to put the brakes on nicotine poisoning in children.
The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act will take effect this summer and will require child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine containers.
Also, the Food and Drug Administration released long-awaited rules last week, requiring e-cigarette companies to undergo federal review to stay on the market and add health warnings to their products. The new regulations, which take effect in August, also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.
Many health officials are upset that the FDA has taken so long to address the dangers of nicotine poisoning in young children.
"Liquid nicotine is another example of a highly toxic product that was put into the marketplace without consideration for safety of children," Smith said. "It's as if we're treating our children as canaries in the coal mine. We wait until there's a dramatic event and then do something."
Smith also acknowledged that many parents might not know just how dangerous these products can be for children. "Even a relatively small dose, which may not cause many effects in adults, can cause major effects in kids."
If you suspect that your child has ingested nicotine, experts recommend that you NOT induce vomiting, but call poison control at 800-222-1222 or that you call 9-1-1.
Story sources: Naseem S. Miller, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-e-cig-kids-poisoning-rising-20160509-story.html
Salynn Boyles, http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/Parenting/57795