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Report: E-Cig Poisoning Calls Double

PHOTO: The number of calls to poison-control centers about electronic cigarette incidents more than doubled last year, which has prompted the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to call on the Food and Drug Administration to finalize regulations. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The number of calls to poison-control centers about electronic cigarette incidents more than doubled last year, which has prompted the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to call on the Food and Drug Administration to finalize regulations. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
January 14, 2015

WASHINGTON - The number of calls to poison-control centers about electronic-cigarette incidents more than doubled last year compared with 2013, according to new data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Children under age 6 were the victims in more than half the cases.

The rise in calls has the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids calling on the Food and Drug Administration to finalize its proposed rule to regulate the products. Vince Willmore, the campaign's vice president for communications, said the agency also needs to crack down on companies' marketing and flavors, such as "gummy bear" and bubble gum.

"Given how they're being marketed, and given these sweet flavors, it's not surprising that more kids are using e-cigarettes," he said, "and that they're attracted to nicotine liquids and being poisoned by them."

While there are no federal regulations to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes and the nicotine liquids, most states, including Maryland, require that purchasers be 18 years old. Willmore says his group wants the FDA to finalize and strengthen rules by the end of April.

Willmore said the colors and packaging of e-cigarettes also appeal to kids, yet nicotine is highly dangerous - and not only because of potential addiction.

"Nicotine is a very toxic substance, and that exposure to even small amounts of nicotine - whether it's through the skin or through ingestion - can cause vomiting and seizures," he said. "Unfortunately, it can even be lethal."

A 1-year-old child in New York died last month after swallowing liquid nicotine. Willmore said the FDA should require childproof packaging, and adults need to keep the devices and supplies out of sight and out of reach of children.

Data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers is online at aapcc.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD