The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in report released today that the number of phone calls to U.S. poison control centers related to e-cigarette use has increased from just one call per month on average in 2010 to nearly 200 calls per month in early 2014.
The rise in the numbers of e-cigs related calls to poison centers leads us to view this as a major public health concern,
said report author Dr. Kevin Chatham-Stephen, a pediatrician and an epidemiologist with the CDC.
He said that though e-cigs comprise less than 2 percent of all tobacco-related sales, they now account for more than 40 percent of poison center calls. More than half of the calls involved children younger than 5 years old.
“This is a very dramatic finding,” Chatham-Stephen said.
According to the report, most of these emergencies are linked to the liquid nicotine within the e-cigs. If the liquid is released from the cylinder that holds it, the result can be acute nicotine toxicity from direct skin or eye exposure, ingestion, or inhalation.
“Cigarettes are the most dangerous consumer product on the planet, and smokers need to treat e-cigs with considerable caution especially since the product is unregulated.”
Dr. Tim MacAfee, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC and contributor to the report.
Those within the e-cigarette industry said concerns are overblown. Jason Healy, the president of e-cigarette manufacturer Blu-cigs, called the findings in the report “a weak argument” against the devices and is evidence of “an ongoing attack on the e-cigs industry by various anti-smoking groups.”
“The product is for adult smokers, and therefore the responsibility for children’s safety falls on the parents, just like bleaches and prescription medications,”
“The focus should be on parenting and education, and not regulation.”
Healy did say, however, that the findings should prompt the e-cig industry to formulate effective child safety measures.
Vaping is a relatively new and very unregulated activity. It does involve one dangerous chemical – liquid nicotine, and quite frankly the vaping industry should be doing all that it can to ensure that it is packaged safely and that users are educated about its characteristics and safe handling.
Anything less is going to lead to draconian regulations and bans, which those of us that vape are truly worried about. Jason Healy is an idiot, and is taking a position that is going to cause regulators to be more restrictive rather than less. While he is probably fairly accurate in his assessment, it won’t help using rhetoric that is likely to inflame rather than cool the situation.
If the regulators feel that the industry is solely concerned with profits (just like the tobacco industry) then the hammer will come down. Regulators are already leaning towards public bans – let’s not give them any more ammunition.
Having said that, the truth of the matter is that there are hundreds of dangerous chemicals around a home, including mum’s nail varnish remover, and the liquid nicotine used at vaping levels is not an “oh my god what are you doing allowing that in public” toxic substance. Yes – it can be poisonous, but then so can many things we use every day. Singling out liquid nicotine does seem to be very selective.