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Posted by on in Centers of Excellence
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Considering the Childhood Safety Issues of E-Cigs

As we have noted in previous blogs, electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) have been growing in popularity since 2007, when they were first marketed in the United States. However, concern has also been growing over health and safety issues associated with their use. One of these is acute exposure to the liquid nicotine, and presents a particular concern for children, reminiscent of recent exposures to laundry pods. In particular, young children may be attracted to the packaging and flavorings of the liquids, thereby ingesting or absorbing them.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, calls regarding exposures to both e-cigarette devices and liquid nicotine have increased. Reported exposures increased 219% in 2013 compared to 2012; and in 2014, 3957 exposures were reported. Over half of these exposures were children under age 6, although the Association explained that this is consistent with exposures to all substances combined. The Centers for Disease Control has also investigated data from the United States poison centers. They similarly focused on calls regarding exposures to the devices and liquid nicotine. However, they only considered calls occurring from September 2010 through February 2014, eliminated calls regarding multiple substances, and compared the calls to those regarding conventional cigarettes. In this analysis, e-cigarette exposures occurred primarily in two age groups – children ages 0-5 (51.1%) and adults >20 years (42.0%). E-cigarettes constituted an increasing proportion of combined monthly e-cigarette and cigarette calls (0.3% in September 2010 – 41.7% in February 2014). Additionally, e-cigarette calls were more likely to report adverse health effects, such as vomiting, nausea, and eye irritation, than cigarette calls.

The safety of e-cigarettes and the liquids used in them continues to be investigated. As we have discussed previously, the risk for disease from e-cigarette use has not been fully characterized. However, acute exposures, particularly those occurring in children, should be recognized and prevented. Storing the devices and liquids in a secure location, protecting skin when handling, and following disposal directions on the labels are all recommended by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Additionally, if you suspect exposure, call your local poison center (1-800-222-1222) immediately.
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