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E-cigarette youth poisonings on the rise

E-cigarette youth poisonings on the rise

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: April 3, 2014 - 2:30 pm ET

Calls to U.S. poison centers reporting toxic exposure to electronic cigarettes climbed from one per month in September 2010 to 215 in February of 2014, federal health officials reported Thursday.

An analysis published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found more than half of e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers involved children ages 5 and younger, and 42% of those calls reported e-cigarette toxicity in people ages 20 and younger.

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The number of calls made to poison centers for toxic exposure to tobacco cigarettes still outnumbers calls about e-cigarettes by a large margin, with 16,248 cigarette exposure calls made between Sept. 2010 and Feb. 2014, compared with 2,405 e-cigarette calls during the same period. However, the rapid increase in the proportion of calls involving e-cigarettes compared with tobacco—from 0.3% in 2010 to 41.7% in Feb. 2014—has caught the attention of public health officials.

“This report raises another red flag about e-cigarettes—the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be hazardous,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden. “Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue.”

Common adverse effects reported from exposure to e-cigarettes included vomiting, nausea and eye irritation.

Electronic cigarettes, which contain a liquid nicotine solution that emits a vapor for inhaling, have soared in popularity over the past few years among traditional smokers who view the devices as a means to help them quit tobacco. A growing number of children have begun using the devices as well, with the percentage of young people using e-cigarettes doubling from 3.3% in 2011 to 6.8% in 2012, according to a report released last year from the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Reports around country have chronicled poisonings of young children who ingest the liquid solution inside e-cigarettes, which even in small amounts can be lethal.

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to establish guidelines regarding the production and marketing of e-cigarettes, leaving many local and state governments tasked with regulating the devices.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson

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