E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes and vaporizer cigarettes are battery-operated devices that release doses of vaporized nicotine or non-nicotine vaporized solutions. E-cigarettes were first introduced into the US market in 2007 as a device to help smokers cut back or quit smoking altogether.
The use of e-cigarettes has risen dramatically in the United States in recent years and calls to poison centers have risen accordingly. Despite this increased prevalence, many parents who use e-cigarettes or “vape” aren’t aware of the dangers to children, according to a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the number of phone calls to poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine has dramatically increased, from one call per month in 2010 to 215 calls per month in 2014. Over 50% of calls involved children five years of age or younger.
E-cigarettes are used like typical cigarettes but instead of tobacco, they vaporize a liquid mixture of nicotine, glycerin and glycol ethers. The liquid is flavored, which appeals to children. If ingested, a teaspoon of this e-liquid can be lethal to a child, and smaller amounts can cause nausea and vomiting that require emergency care. Exposure to skin can also make children sick. Last year, a toddler in New York died after ingesting liquid nicotine intended for use in an e-cigarette.
The researchers found that 36 percent of the e-cigarette users neither locked up e-liquid bottles nor used childproof caps. Such caps, while required in Europe, are not mandated in the United States. The study showed that e-liquid was “stored” in easy-to-access places such as drawers, kitchen cabinets, women’s purses or simply left on an open counter.
In the study, only 15 percent of e-cigarette users reported that they had told their pediatricians they were using the devices. “We strongly encourage pediatricians to ask parents about nicotine use, including e-cigarettes, and to discuss the risks of exposure,” said one of the main researchers. “Ingestion is bad, of course, but even skin exposure to e-liquid can harm children.”
Although there remains an open debate about the dangers of vaping among adults, there is no argument about the dangers to children.