Liquid nicotine poisonings nearly double in Utah in 2014, majority of victims are children

Posted at 7:26 PM, Feb 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-11 22:52:00-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The number of poison reports due to liquid nicotine in Utah nearly doubled last year compared to 2013, and more than half of the victims are children.

"This is really a novel nicotine product that has so much potential because of the high concentration, so I think we'll continue to see an increased number of calls as this becomes more popular in the home," said Barbara Crouch, the Executive Director and a clinical toxicologist at the Utah Poison Control Center.

Utah's Poison Control Center saw only 16 calls related to e-cigarettes in 2012. Just two years later, that number jumped to 131. There were 75 calls in 2013. And children under age six were the victims in three-quarters of the cases.

"Children are susceptible because they're curious; they explore their environment, they put everything in their mouth, and that's how they learn,” said Marty Malheiro, Utah Poison Control Center Outreach Coordinator.

The Utah Poison Control Center said some of the liquid nicotine that goes into the e-cigarettes is so potent that even a drop in the highest concentration could cause health issues.

"It can start by causing a lot of irritation to the stomach--nausea, vomiting kind of thing--and it's also a stimulant," Crouch said. "It can also cause seizures and muscle twitching like activity, and then in very massive doses it can do the opposite."

The e-cigarette industry has been under the microscope by health officials and political leaders for years. But e-cigarette advocates say parents need to do their part to keep kids safe.

“It’s really important that people understand that this is a product like all the others that need to be kept in locked cabinets out of the reach of young hands,” said Aaron Frazier, Executive Director Utah Smoke Free Association.

Aaron Frazier, a lobbyist for the vaping industry, said stores that are members of the Utah Smoke Free Association are not allowed to carry liquid nicotine without a child-proof cap.

“We as an industry are doing everything we can, but there still needs to be more--and a lot of that is education of the public,” Frazier said.

“We know that when new products are out there, we see this kind of rise, so that part isn't a surprise because it's followed the pattern of a new product in the home,” Crouch said.

The Utah Poison Control Center said this uptick from e-cigarette liquid is similar to the rise in poison calls relating to detergent pods last year. They expect e-cigarettes to follow the same pattern the detergent pods did: Cases will rise at first and then eventually begin to fall as more parents become educated about the issue.