A mom turns her back for a moment only to turn around and see her young son with a relative’s refill for an e-cigarette in his hands. It’s open and it’s empty. She runs him across the street to a neighbor’s house for help, but the little boy wouldn’t make it.
Stories like this are both true and tragic. However, they can be avoided if parents and the makers of e-cigarettes and related products take the right preventative steps.
Vaping, or the act of inhaling vaporized liquid nicotine through electronic cigarettes, has been on the rise in North America and globally. Some research predicts it will be a $50 billion industry by 2025.
E-cigarettes mimic the process of smoking tobacco while providing nicotine to a user through water vapor instead of smoke.
It’s often pitched as a way to help people quit smoking or potentially avoid the negative side effects of the habit. While the truth to those claims is up for debate, what is becoming clear is the fact that accidental exposure to liquid nicotine poses a risk to young children.
Of particular concern are the refillable cartridges containing the liquid nicotine (also known as e-juice). The liquid typically comes in small vials such as an eye-dropper.
Why Liquid Nicotine is a Safety Concern
Reports of accidental exposure to liquid nicotine jumped from 271 cases in 2011 to 3,783 reported cases to poison control centers in 2014.
In 2015, there were still more than 3,000 calls to poison control centers around the United States concerning liquid nicotine exposures, and preliminary analysis indicates as many as 70 percent of those incidents involved children.
Since not all cases get reported, officials believe these numbers may actually be much higher.
The story at the beginning of this article is sadly true. In 2014, an 18-month old boy in Upstate New York died after swallowing liquid nicotine when his mother had her back turned. He is the first fatality directly connected to this type of poisoning.
Yet any parent would agree, losing even one child is too many.
E-cigarettes often feature colorful packaging and flavors that may be enticing to kids, from bubble gum and cotton candy to strawberry and watermelon. It’s not hard to see why a curious kid who sees and smells an adult vaping would be curious about this product.
What Can Happen if a Child is Exposed?
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), just one teaspoon of liquid nicotine could prove fatal for a child.
Smaller amounts may cause side effects including severe nausea and vomiting. Accidental exposures include contact with the skin and eyes as well as ingestion.
Acute nicotine toxicity is the official term used to describe what happens to someone when they overdose on the drug nicotine.
Medical experts say symptoms of nicotine poisoning include:
- Excessive salivation (drooling)
- Abdominal cramps
- Pounding heart beat followed by slow heart rate
- Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
- Burning sensation in the mouth
- Convulsions or muscle twitching
If you believe someone is experiencing nicotine poisoning, you should call Poison Control immediately. The national Poison Help hotline is 1-800-222-1222.
What’s Being Done to Protect Kids?
It’s unlikely that vaping is just a trend. E-cigarettes are a popular product, which is why regulatory measures have been put into place to keep kids safe.
In January 2016, President Obama signed the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act into law. The legislation requires e-juice refills be packaged in a child-resistant container. These regulations will receive oversight through the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Various child safety organizations worked with lawmakers to make this happen. They released a joint statement of support following the signing of the law.
“Requiring liquid nicotine containers to be child-resistant is an important first step to address the safety hazards of these products. We look forward to working collaboratively to implement this new law and take other necessary steps to keep kids safe.”
In May of the same year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling that made common vaping products subject to inclusion under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.
This means the FDA also has the power to regulate things like e-cigarettes and refillable liquid nicotine cartridges. Regulations could come in the form of warning labels as well as advertising and marketing limits for makers and resellers of such products.
Stephen Kaminski, the CEO and executive director of AAPCC, had this to say about regulatory efforts:
“The FDA’s decision to expand its reach represents a significant breakthrough in addressing an increasingly significant public health threat in our country. This action not only protects a consumer’s right to a healthy and safe environment, but more importantly address hazards posed by e-cigarette products and liquid nicotine to our children.”
How Child-Resistant Flexible Packaging Helps
While some responsibility certainly lies with parents and other caretakers, makers of vaping products should also be responsible with their packaging. And now, the law requires these products be contained in a child-resistant package.
The Child-Guard™ closure has been thoroughly tested and is an excellent choice for use with child-resistant flexible packages like bags and standup pouches.
Child-Guard™ can also help protect kids from accidental exposure to many other types of products containing nicotine. This closure can be applied to packages for things like nicotine patches and nicotine gum as well as pipe and chewing tobacco.
Child-Guard™ is a new innovation in packaging safety. If you already haven’t, you’ll soon see it on store shelves on packages of single-use laundry packets. Every time you purchase a product packaged with Child-Guard™ you’re casting a vote for keeping kids safe.
We’re proud to help make the home a safer place for children, and we’re always open to hearing your ideas. What would you guard with Child-Guard™?
Tell us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #guardit!