A “healthier” solution to cigarettes may be just the opposite. According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control Thursday, the number of monthly calls to poison centers for e-cigarette related incidents went from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014.
The jump takes the proportion of e-cigarette related calls to poison centers from just 0.3 percent to 41.7 percent.
Published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the study sheds light on the hidden dangers of what many consider to be a promising alternative to regular cigarettes. The culprit of the rising calls, according to the CDC, is directly related to e-cigarette’s colorful and enticing packaging. Incidents involving children below the age of 5 make up 51.1 percent of the poison center calls.
With a lack of regulations from the Federal Drug Administration, CDC Director Tom Frieden worries this problem will only get worse. “E-cigarette liquids as currently sold are a threat to small children because they are not required to be childproof, and they come in candy and fruit flavors that are appealing to children.”
Unlike cigarette poisoning, which usually involves the child eating it, e-cigarette liquid can affect those who simply smell it. Workers who handle the e-cigarette liquid wear special protective equipment to keep them safe.
Just last week in Oklahoma, a 4-year-old was hospitalized after he drank the “raspberry smash” flavored e-cigarette liquid that belonged to his mom. In Florida one year earlier, a 5-year-old was vomiting for two days before his parents learned it was e-cigarette poisoning.
On top of severe vomiting, e-cigarette poisoning causes nausea, eye irritation, and fatigue. Even after recovering from the initial sickness, patients can be left in nicotine withdrawal that lasts for days.
While the total number of e-cigarette related calls from 2010-2014 (2,405) still falls well below the total number of cigarette-related calls in the same time period (16,248), the increased is troubling experts.
“Use of these products is skyrocketing and these poisonings will continue,” says Frieden. “Health care providers, e-cigarette companies and distributors, and the general public need to be aware of this potential health risk.”