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.
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