E-cigarettes have been on the rise for those trying to quit smoking and for people who just want to replace smoking tobacco with something less deadly. But is that really the case?
As those little electronic vaping devices gain popularity, the poison control centers have had a surge in phone calls involving e-cigarettes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday.
In February alone, there were 215 poison center calls claiming nicotine poisoning, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Compared to one per month in September 2010, this is disturbing news.
What is most disturbing is that 51 percent of those calls involved children 5 and under, officials said.
Since not all poisonings get reported, the CDC said the total number of cases is likely even higher.
What appears to be misunderstood is that nicotine is a drug, and in its concentrated liquid form, poison experts warn it is also significantly toxic, even in small doses. E-cigarettes, which are not required to be childproof, entice children with flavors like vanilla, banana and bubble gum.
"What's attractive to kids: It's the smell. It's the scent. It's the color," said Gaylord Lopez, director of the Georgia Poison Center. "A kid's not going to know the difference between a poison and something they can drink."
An Oklahoma mother found out the hard way when her 4-year-old son got his hands on the liquid nicotine used to refill her e-cigarettes.
"We hear a little noise, come in and he has taken the lid off of all of them and has this liquid everywhere. He's got it all over him. He's been eating it," Ren Gaulrapp told CNN affiliate KFOR.
Her son was rushed to the emergency room and vomited all day long.
It isn't just vaping the liquid nicotine that is dangerous, it can be poisonous when absorbed on the skin, mouth or eyes. It can even be deadly, as one person proved, when they injected the liquid to commit suicide, the CDC reported.
Lopez said his poison center has also taken calls from adults who've spilled e-cigarette nicotine on themselves while filling up the devices.
Since there is currently no regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), poison control experts claim that the liquid in bottles or cartridges have been known to break or leak and need better control practices.
"There's no legislation on the books right now," Lopez said. "A product as dangerous as this, as lethal as this, child-resistant caps would be a great help."
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