News release: E-cigarette poisonings 10 times more common among kids and teens in 2013

News Release
March 18, 2014

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E-cigarette poisonings 10 times more common among kids and teens in 2013

Alert to parents, nicotine vials potentially fatal to children

The Minnesota Poison Control System (Poison Center) saw more than 10 times as many reports of children and teens being poisoned by e-cigarette juice in 2013 compared to 2012. E-cigarette juice is the term for the liquid used in tobacco vaporizers. These vials of liquid can contain fatal levels of nicotine for children, who may mistake them for candy or something to eat.

In 2012, the poison center received only five reports of e-cigarette related poisonings for people less than 20 years old. In 2013, that number jumped to 50. Whereas previously, e-cigarette poisonings were virtually unheard of in Minnesota, in 2013, they accounted for 23 percent of the state's 218 teen and child tobacco-related poisonings. Poisonings include calls where e-cigarette liquids, also known as e-juice, have been swallowed, inhaled, come in contact with the eyes, or absorbed through the skin.

"Fortunately, none of the poisonings hospitalized or seriously injured children in 2013. But given the rise in poisonings, we really want parents to know that this liquid nicotine can pose a fatal risk and that they should store it out of the reach of children,” said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

Currently, there is no state or federal law requiring manufacturers of e-juice to disclose ingredients or require child-resistant packaging. Many e-juice flavors, such as cotton candy, bubble gum and grape, have an appeal for kids.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and/or difficulty breathing. A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50 to 60 milligrams (mg), and a fatal dose for children is expected to be less. E-juice containers may include varying amounts of nicotine, from 18 mg up to 24 mg. E-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery-operated devices that allow users to inhale vaporized liquids.

"We think of concentrated nicotine as a very serious poison, equivalent to dangerous prescription drugs,” said Stacey Bangh, Clinical Supervisor at the Hennepin Regional Poison Center. "Given this rate of increase, it's not a matter of if a child will be harmed by these products, but when.”

Several calls received in 2013 by the poison center involved toddlers and infants less than 2 years old who had swallowed e-juice, while some involved teenagers who had been using e-cigarettes.

Parents are reminded to keep these products and other potentially harmful substances out of the reach of children. Anyone with a poison-related question should call 1-800-222-1222.

The Minnesota Poison Control System has been designated by the Minnesota Department of Health since 1982 to provide emergency poison medical management and poison prevention information to Minnesotans. The Poison Center is located at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and is nationally accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Toxic Exposures Reported for E-Cigarettes and Tobacco Products (2011-2013)


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications

Christine Hill
Hennepin County Medical Center