While the controversy about the safety of e-cigarettes rages, there appears to be a need to protect people, especially children, from nicotine poisoning. Many people feel that smoking e-cigarettes, electronic cigarettes which allow users to inhale liquid nicotine without the carcinogenic effects of smoking tobacco, is far healthier than smoking regular cigarettes. Rising reports of nicotine poisoning may, however, tell a different story. Nicotine, in its liquid form is classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a drug.
The CDC reported that there were over two hundred nicotine poisoning calls during the month of Feb. 2014. This reflects a huge increase in the number of calls from just four or five years ago before e-cigarettes became as popular as they are currently. Adults who inhale liquid nicotine that they might have spilled while refilling their e-cigarettes can become ill within minutes. Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that over half of the calls reported by the CDC involved children under the age of five years old.
One of the problems with liquid nicotine is the packaging. Small children especially need protection from nicotine poisoning because they are often attracted to the packaging. Liquid nicotine is often packaged in bright colors. The product can have fruity, candy like flavors, such as banana, strawberry and chocolate, which are appetizing to children. Without child-proof caps, children are easily able to open and consume the product.
Children have no idea that just a small amount of liquid nicotine, ingested, breathed in or absorbed through the skin can be lethal. Exposure to liquid nicotine can cause cramps, vomiting, convulsions, breathing problems, rapid heartbeat, weakness, and possible seizures. Children who have any of these symptoms should be rushed to the nearest emergency facility.
To protect children and others from potential nicotine poisoning, several senators are pushing for safety caps for the bottles which contain liquid nicotine. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is pushing for legislation known as “The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2014,” which would require packaging that is child-proof for liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes. Another potential protective measure is an overall ban on the sale of the sweet flavored nicotine products.
Another precaution could include Federal Drug Administration (FDA) oversight. Currently, the FDA has no oversight over the e-cigarette trade. Since there is no tobacco involved, the usual regulations pertaining to tobacco products do not apply. With FDA oversight, there could potentially be regulations regarding packaging and marketing. The FDA could also implement and enforce regulations regarding the legal age for purchasing e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine.
Perhaps, more importantly, the FDA would have the authority to scrutinize the ingredients in many of the liquid nicotine products containing fruity flavors. In addition to concerns about liquid nicotine making it into the unsuspecting hands of innocent children, there are also concerns about many of the other e-cigarette ingredients which could be toxic as well.
The safety of e-cigarettes is still being debated in the scientific and medical communities. There are those who swear by the product. A lot of people feel as if they are a life saver. Others are not so sure. Whatever the outcome, it is certain that those on both side of the debate would probably not disagree with the need for protection against nicotine poisoning.
By Constance Spruill