By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, April 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) The number of calls to poison control centers for nicotine poisoning from e cigarettes has risen dramatically in recent years, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
Calls related to poisoning from the liquid nicotine used in these devices were running at a rate of roughly one a month in 2010, but jumped to 215 in February of this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even more troubling, more than half (51 percent) of the poison calls involved children aged 5 and younger, while 42 percent involved people aged 20 and older.
“The time has come to start thinking about what we can do to keep this from turning into an even worse public health problem,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
He added that many people are not aware that liquid nicotine is toxic. “We need to make sure we can avert the possibility of an unintended death from nicotine poisoning,” he said.
“We have not had an unintentional poisoning death from e cigarettes yet in the United States that we know of, but the potential is there given the amount of concentrated nicotine in these solutions it would not take a lot for a child death to occur,” McAfee noted.
CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden noted in a news release that e cigarettes are particularly attractive to kids because they come in candy and fruit flavors.
Dr. Vincenzo Maniaci, an emergency medicine specialist at Miami Children’s Hospital, agreed that the danger to children is real.
“The concentration of nicotine in these solutions is significant and they need to be made childproof and regulated,” Maniaci said. “Especially for kids under the age of 5, this amount of nicotine can be fatal.”
McAfee noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to propose regulations for e cigarettes. He added that he hopes these regulations will include how the product is packaged, including childproof caps and warning labels.
“These things can be hardwired into these products, rather than being left to the whim of the manufacturer,” he said.
In the meantime, McAfee advised keeping these devices, and their refills, out of the reach of children.
“These should be treated with the same caution one would use for bleach. In some ways, this is more toxic than bleach,” he said.
Poisoning from the liquid nicotine in e cigarettes can happen in one of three ways by swallowing it inhaling it or absorbing it through the skin or membranes in the mouth and lips or eyes, McAfee said. Once it is in a person’s system, nicotine can cause nausea, vomiting or seizures.
If those symptoms are occurring, the patient will typically be told to go straight to the emergency room, said Amy Hanoian Fontana, from the Connecticut Poison Control Center.
Poisoning linked to e-cigarettes up sharply in the u.s.: report – the globe and mail
E cigarettes typically contain liquid nicotine and can come in candy or fruit flavours, which the CDC points out can be appealing to children. They can ingest or inhale the liquid and get sick as a result. The liquid nicotine can also be absorbed through the skin or the eyes. Just over half of the calls to the centres related to poisonings in children under 5.
This report raises another red flag about e cigarettes the liquid nicotine used in e cigarettes can be hazardous, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement. Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue.
The most common health problems reported to poison control centres in relation to e cigarettes were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation, according to the CDC.
In Canada, e cigarettes containing nicotine are not permitted for sale. But many users are able to buy nicotine cartridges through online retailers.
The market for e cigarettes in Canada, the United States and other countries around the world has been steadily growing. Many people report turning to e cigarettes as a way to cut down or stop smoking. But several public health advocates fear that e cigarettes will serve as a gateway to smoking for young people.
Part of the problem is there is little high quality scientific data demonstrating whether e cigarettes work as a smoking cessation device. Many of the studies that have been conducted have conflicting results. In addition, many studies have had major design flaws, such as being too small or not being randomized or controlled.
Frank Welsh, director of policy with the Canadian Public Health Association, said if e cigarette manufacturers want to be regulated and used as smoking cessation devices, they will need to invest in the research to prove those claims. Otherwise, it s difficult for an agency such as Health Canada to regulate them.
Calling e cigarettes smoking cessation devices is subjective without any solid background information concerning a risk assessment, Welsh said.
Some advocates say Health Canada should be more active on the issue of e cigarettes because the use of them is soaring and the lack of a regulatory framework may create a void.
Earlier this week, Calgary s city council voted to study the health risks of e cigarettes, given that they are being used more frequently in bars, restaurants and other public places.
Health Canada has said little on the subject of e cigarettes except a notice in 2009 to consumers not to use them because they haven t been fully studied. That s simply not good enough, according to many e cigarette users and advocates of the idea they can be used as a smoking cessation tool. They argue that the market for this product is already there and federal leadership could prevent e cigarettes from being used by adolescents.