The Minnesota Department of Health has stated that the Minnesota Poison Control System saw “more than 10 times as many reports of children and teens being poisoned by e-cigarette juice in 2013 compared to 2012.” E-cigarette juice is the liquid used in tobacco vaporizers. Children sometimes mistake them as candy, and they may contain fatal levels of nicotine. Some of the products come in flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy, and grape.
There were 5 reports of e-cigarette related poisonings in those under the age of 20 in 2012, but that number jumped to 50 in 2013. The poisonings include e-juice being swallowed, inhaled, in contact with the eyes, or absorbed through the skin.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement, “Fortunately, none of the poisonings hospitalized or seriously injured children in 2013. But given the rise in poisonings, we really want parents to know that this liquid nicotine can pose a fatal risk and that they should store it out of the reach of children.” There is no state or federal law that requires child-resistant packaging or any label on the product listing ingredients.
The symptoms of nicotine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and difficulty breathing. A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50 and 60 milligrams; a fatal dose for children is less. E-juice containers contain 18 mg to 24 mg per vial.
Some of the calls to the poison center were for toddles and infants less than 2 years old. Others were for teenagers who had been using e-cigarettes. Stacey Bangh, Clinical Supervisor at the Hennepin Regional Poison Center said, “we think of concentrated nicotine as a very serious poison, equivalent to dangerous prescription drugs. Given this rate of increase, it’s not a matter of if a child will be harmed by these products, but when.”