The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of calls to poison control centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine has risen sharply, from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014.
The study, published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) says calls involving conventional cigarettes did not increase during the same period. More than 50 percent of the e-cigarette calls involved children under 5; about 42 percent involved people 20 and older. Nausea, vomiting, and eye irritation were the adverse health effects mostly commonly mentioned in the calls, according to the CDC.
In comparing total monthly poison center calls involving e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, the MMWR says e-cigarette calls jumped from 0.3 percent in September 2010 to 41.7 percent in February 2014. For young children, poisoning from conventional cigarettes is generally due to eating cigarette(s), but with e-cigarettes poisoning can occur in various ways: through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of the liquid through the skin or eyes. CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said, “E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children.” Childproof bottles are not required and the candy and fruit flavors of the e-liquids are appealing to children. According to the New York Times, as little as a teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be fatal for a small child. And many e-cigarette users – perhaps unaware of the serious risks – leave e-liquids within reach of children.
The study used data from poison centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The centers reported 2,405 e-cigarette and 16,248 cigarette exposure calls from September 2010 to February 2014, but the number could be higher, the CDC says, because not all exposures are reported to a poison control center.