E-Cigarette Poisoning Cases on the Rise

CDC Study Highlights Urgent Need for Consumer Caution and FDA Regulation

Note to Editors: Experts are available for comment.

(April 3, 2014)

Startling new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows calls to the nation’s poison centers for e-cigarette exposure poisonings are rapidly increasing.  The study found that while most calls involving e-cigarette liquid poisoning came from accidental ingestion of the e-cigarette or its liquid, about one-sixth of the calls related to someone inhaling these items. Exposure through the eye and the skin were also reported.

“Coming into contact with e-liquid that has a concentrated solution of nicotine is highly dangerous,” said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., Senior Medical Advisor of the American Lung Association. “As with any poison, these liquids must be kept away from children.  Adults also must be aware of the danger of touching it and ingesting it.” 

While there remain a greater number of calls to poison centers about traditional cigarette poisonings, calls for e-cigarettes have been steadily increasing – from one call in September 2010 to over 200 in February 2014.  The study found that calls to poison control centers about e-cigarette exposures were more likely to result in “an adverse health effect” compared to cigarette exposure calls – highlighting the toxic potency of these e-liquids. 

“Poisons are marked with a skull and crossbones but e-cigarette liquid comes in packaging that has pictures of fruit and candy and may smell like candy as well,” added Edelman.

Poison centers reported approximately half of all calls regarding e-cigarette exposures were about a child under the age of 6 but over 40 percent of calls involved someone over the age of 20.

“This study must serve as a wake-up call – not just to parents to keep this e-liquid out of the hands of their children, but also to adult users to take extreme precaution when coming into contact with this liquid,” stated Edelman.

E-cigarettes and e-liquids remain entirely unregulated by the federal government.  E-cigarettes are a tobacco product and FDA has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. Earlier this week, the American Lung Association and five other leading public health and medical groups sent a letter to President Obama, asking for him to release a proposed regulation that would give FDA authority to begin its oversight of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. 

“Once FDA asserts authority over e-cigarettes, it could require packaging and labeling changes that would offer greater protections to children and adults,” Edelman added.  “This study further highlights how important it is that FDA be allowed to begin its work.”

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