E-cigarettes increase calls to poison control centers

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PHOENIX -- Electronic cigarettes may be a safer way to smoke, but are they dangerous to your children? Based on the calls coming into poison control centers here in Arizona and throughout the country, the answer may be yes.

Nationally, poison control centers have seen a 161 percent increase in calls triggered by these devices, more than half of them involving children who can wind up in emergency rooms and potentially in a coma or even dead as a result of exposure to the chemical nicotine found in the products and the re-fill cartridges.

"Accidental nicotine poisoning is very, very common,” Dr. Frank LoVecchio of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center said.

“If a toddler opens [an e-cigarette], there is a potential that they could die from ingesting the whole amount.” LoVecchio explained.

He said the refill bottles are even more dangerous, especially those that are flavored and appeal to kids.

“There's 10 m-ls [milliliters] in here, potentially enough to kill five toddlers,” he said. “It’s extremely easy to open and it tastes good.”

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness.

In 2012, Banner received a total of 10 calls involving e-cigarettes. Four of those involved children.

In 2013, the number jumped to 23 calls, 13 involving kids younger than 4. Already one child has been exposed in 2014, and we're not even halfway through January.

Crown 7 is a Scottsdale-based company that manufactures and sells e-cigarettes and e-fluid. Founded in 2007, Crown 7 calls itself "a leader in the electric cigarette industry."

Crown 7's bottles come with a child-resistant cap and their e-cigarettes have a feature built in to help prevent over-exposure in adults.

“Once you’ve had a certain number of puffs that equates to a traditional cigarette, our product shuts down and resets,” explained Ron MacDonald of Crown 7.

But not all e-cigarettes are the same. Different brands and products have varying amounts of nicotine content.

“My recommendation is look at the nicotine content listed on package or bottle,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s really just a matter of common sense to keep these products out of the way so kids cannot grab them just as you would a lighter, regular cigarettes, poison plants around your house. You have to be a parent and use common sense in these sorts of situations.”

LoVecchio said you always should wash your hands after refilling an e-cigarette because you don’t have to inhale or ingest the contents to get sick.

“Remember a simple amount on your skin can be absorbed and cause toxicity,” LoVecchio said. “So the best advice, of course, is to try to stop smoking and if you do use these devices, please keep them out of the reach of toddlers.”

Currently the e-cigarette industry is a billion dollar unregulated industry. Experts believe 2014 will be the year that the Food and Drug Administration will crack down on the industry, mandating some safety measure be in place regarding packaging and nicotine content.


The Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center is a national leader in poison care and prevention. Our FREE 24-hour emergency hotline, 800-222-1222, is staffed by trained experts, who are ready to answer your questions and/or concerns when you need it the most. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

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