Liquid Nicotine & Children: A Deadly Combination

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: Colorful bottles and sweet flavors make the packaging of liquid nicotine refills very attractive to your child.
Air Date: 12/16/14
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Kyran Quinlan, MD
Quinlan pictureKyran Quinlan, MD, MPH, is a general pediatrician and injury epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury Violence and Poison Prevention.
Liquid Nicotine & Children: A Deadly Combination
If you have joined the growing number of smokers who have made the switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes in an effort to get healthier, it may be time to consider quitting altogether. With the rise of e-cigarettes, there is another dangerous product making its way into your home that has the potential to cause great harm or even death to your children- liquid nicotine.  

Liquid nicotine, if ingested in even the tiniest amount, can be extremely poisonous and fatal to children. Nicotine is a neurotoxin that is naturally created by the tobacco plant and often used as an insecticide. As an insecticide, its purpose is to kill any insects trying to cause harm to the plant. 

A Hidden Poison

There has been a huge influx of poison control calls that are directly related to liquid nicotine. According to Dr. Kyran Quinlan, a pediatrician and injury epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, he has heard the bottles being described as “little bottles of poison that smell like bubble gum.”

The nicotine is generally packaged in small vials resembling eye drops, and usually include brightly colored labels, images of fruits and cartoon characters, and advertised flavors. Combined with the wonderful bubble gum smell it emits, it’s easy to see why a child may mistake this product for juice or liquid candy.  

It can be difficult to estimate how toxic and highly concentrated liquid nicotine is, but as a general estimate, just one small sip of liquid nicotine is like smoking several packs of cigarettes all at once. In fact, a dose of just one half teaspoon can kill a child, and the United States very recently had its first liquid nicotine-related child death. Worse still, liquid nicotine doesn’t have to be swallowed to be poisonous; it can be absorbed through the tongue, and accidentally spilling it on skin will cause the nicotine to be readily absorbed by the body much like a nicotine patch. 

Preventing Access from Children

It’s common for this product to be stored in the homes of e-cigarette users, and it can be easily purchased at most convenience stores. With all of the danger surrounding liquid nicotine combined with the ease of which it can be obtained, having child resistant bottles and packaging seems like the very least manufacturers can do to add a line of defense between the nicotine and children. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is currently advocating for greater protection around these products, as are countless parents across the U.S. To speed up the process, the AAP also advises that you contact your state legislature and ask for laws that require child resistant packaging. A simple change in design could mean greater safety, as special bottles saved many lives during a similar situation with aspirin. According to the AAP, for the immediate safety of your kids, consider transferring all liquid nicotine into your own secure bottles that require a pinch or a push to turn, similar to medicine bottles. Once stored in a secure bottle or container, move them somewhere high, where they will be out of reach for your children.

Listen in as Dr. Quinlan discusses the real dangers of have liquid nicotine in your house.

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