CDC Publishes Poison Center Data on E-Cigarette Liquids

Public, others "need to be aware of this potential health risk," it concludes

Published in CSP Daily News

ATLANTA -- A new Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) study published in the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report claimed that the number of calls to poison centers involving electronic cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in Sept. 2010 to 215 per month in Feb. 2014.

The number of calls per month involving conventional cigarettes did not show a similar increase during the same time period, said the study.

More than half (51.1%) of the calls to poison centers due to e-cigarettes involved young children under age five, it said, and about 42% of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.

The analysis compared total monthly poison center calls involving e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, and it found the proportion of e-cigarette calls jumped from 0.3% in Sept. 2010 to 41.7% in Feb. 2014, it said. Poisoning from conventional cigarettes is generally due to young children eating them. Poisoning related to e-cigarettes involves the liquid containing nicotine used in the devices and can occur in three ways: ingestion, inhalation or absorption through the skin or eyes.

"This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes--the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous," said CDC director Tom Frieden. "Use of these products is skyrocketing, and these poisonings will continue. E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children."

E-cigarette calls were more likely than cigarette calls to include a report of an adverse health effect following exposure, the study said. The most common adverse health effects mentioned in e-cigarette calls were vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Data for this study came from the poison centers that serve the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories. The study examined all calls reporting exposure to conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or nicotine liquid used in e-cigarettes. Poison centers reported 2,405 e-cigarette and 16,248 cigarette exposure calls from Sept. 2010 to Feb. 2014. The total number of poisoning cases is likely higher than reflected in this study, because not all exposures might have been reported to poison centers, the CDC said.

"The most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey showed e-cigarette use is growing fast, and now this report shows e-cigarette related poisonings are also increasing rapidly," said Tim McAfee, director of CDC's Office on Smoking & Health. "Health care providers, e-cigarette companies and distributors, and the general public need to be aware of this potential health risk from e-cigarettes."

Developing strategies to monitor and prevent future poisonings is critical given the rapid increase in e-cigarette-related poisonings, the CDC said. The report shows that e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine have the potential to cause immediate adverse health effects and represent an emerging public health concern, it concluded.

The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) issued the following statement regarding the CDC study: "We are aware of reports of increased calls to poison control centers that involve e-liquid and support federal age restrictions on the purchase of vapor products, childproof caps and proper labeling to safeguard against accidental ingestion of e-liquid by minors or adults. As the use of personal vaporizing products has grown rapidly in popularity, SFATA has advocated for the use of childproof packaging and clear warning labels. In addition, we encourage parents of small children to take precautions with liquids containing nicotine, just as they would with other household products that could be toxic if ingested. As an industry, we do not market to children or teens. These products are for adult smokers who are looking for a better alternative to combustible cigarettes."

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