E-cigarettes poisonings have sickened rising numbers of young children, a study found after examining U.S. poison center calls. In most of the cases, children swallowed liquid nicotine, leading to severe complications, including comas and seizures.
Poison center calls about exposure to nicotine and tobacco products among children under age 6 from January 2012 through April 2015 were examined and the results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Children get attracted to the colorful packaging and flavored nicotine of the e-cigarettes, the study said.
"This is an epidemic by any definition," lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, reportedly said.
The researchers, who conducted the study, called for a need for better parent awareness about the importance of keeping the devices out of the reach of young kids.
Although most children were not seriously harmed, one child reportedly died due to the intake of liquid nicotine.
The number of monthly calls about young kids swallowing, inhaling or touching e-cigarettes climbed from 14 in January 2012 to 223 by the study's end in April 2015. During the study, a total number of 4,128 cases were recorded, with most children at the age of 2 or below. Nearly 14 percent of the total 30,000 calls involve kids' exposure to nicotine and tobacco products during that time.
The researchers also recommended that strict regulations and restrictions issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last Thursday be put in place.
The FDA rules issued last week involved the requirement of federal review of the devices and their ingredients. The agency also plans to require nicotine exposure warnings and child-resistant packaging — an action that would supplement the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention law, which takes effect this summer and will require child-resistant packaging of liquid nicotine containers.
The poisonings were called "a huge public health issue" by Dr. Joan Shook, chief safety officer at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and head of the American Academy of Pediatrics' emergency medicine committee.
"Many emergency physicians are going, 'What the heck, this is really a problem, why aren't they doing anything about it?'" Shook, who wasn't involved in the study said, according to the Associated Press. "If you use these products, you need to treat them as medication or toxins and keep them closed, locked and out of reach of children."