Be careful what you do with your e-cigarette — it can poison your child. A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a shocking increase in the number of e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers. Slightly more than half of the involved children were under the age of five.
In September 2010, the rate was about one call per month, representing about 0.3 percent of calls. By February 2014, the rate rose to 215 per month — that’s about 41.7 percent of calls. During the same time period, traditional cigarette-related calls did not increase.
Here’s the problem: e-cigarettes use a liquid that contains nicotine. Children can be poisoned by:
- absorption through eyes or skin
Traditional cigarette poisoning usually occurs when children eat them.
“This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes – the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said in a press release. “Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue. 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.”
The CDC used data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. Calls included in the e-cigarette count involved exposure to the e-cigarette or to the cartridge of nicotine liquid that the user inserts into the device. The traditional cigarette exposure count included exposure to cigarettes, but did not include cigarette butts. Calls involving multiple exposures were not counted in this study.
The CDC notes that not all cases may have been reported, so the actual number of cigarette poisoning cases may be higher.
E-cigarette calls are more likely than traditional cigarette calls to involve an adverse reaction. The most common symptoms include vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.
Don’t let e-cigarettes fool you — they can poison your children. Keep all cigarettes out of the reach of children.
If you suspect your child has been exposed to a toxic substance, call your local poison control center. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established a Poison Help Number: 1-800-222-1222 that will connect you to your local poison center. Keep it programmed into your phone. The Poison Help Line is staffed with trained poison experts; it’s free; it’s confidential; help is available day and night, 365 days a year; and translation services are available in many languages.
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Infographic: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention