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Another Hidden Health Danger of E-Cigarettes

PHOTO: The liquid nicotine used to refill e-cigarettes is literally a poison that must be handled very carefully, says Registered Pharmacist Donna Lotzer, UW-Health Poison Education Coordinator. (Photo from the Food and Drug Administration)
PHOTO: The liquid nicotine used to refill e-cigarettes is literally a poison that must be handled very carefully, says Registered Pharmacist Donna Lotzer, UW-Health Poison Education Coordinator. (Photo from the Food and Drug Administration)
April 11, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – E-cigarettes often are advertised as being safer than conventional cigarettes, but health experts say that claim has never been proven.

Donna Lotzer, a registered pharmacist who is Poison Education Coordinator for UW-Health, says the liquid nicotine that is used to refill e-cigarettes is literally a poison.

"Nicotine in a concentrated form is used as a pesticide, so nicotine certainly would be considered a poison,” she relates, “whether it comes in the form of a conventional cigarette or whether it comes in the form of these liquid products."

There have been at least a dozen incidents in the past year of Wisconsinites – adults and children – needing medical care after contact with liquid nicotine.

Lotzer says some of the cases have involved adults spilling liquid nicotine on their skin while reloading their e-cigarette, and some have involved children who have accidentally ingested it.

Lotzer stresses adults should be extremely careful when refilling their e-cigarettes, and they should keep the liquid nicotine locked up.

"And of course this also goes again for conventional cigarettes or snuff or any nicotine-containing products,” she adds. “But it needs to be kept out of the reach of children. It needs to be kept preferably in a locked cupboard or container where the child cannot access it."

Liquid nicotine often is packaged in small brightly colored bottles that can attract the attention of children.

Lotzer says if liquid nicotine is accidentally spilled on skin, or a child ingests it, you should call the Wisconsin Poison Helpline immediately.

"Twenty-four hours, 7 days a week, it's 800-222-1222,” she points out. “And even if they just suspect a person has gotten into a product containing nicotine to call that number immediately and get some help and advice."


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI