Electronic cigarettes have sickened rising numbers of young children, a study of U.S. poison center calls has found. Most cases involve swallowing liquid nicotine.
While most kids weren't seriously harmed, one child died and several had severe complications including comas and seizures.
"This is an epidemic by any definition," said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The study examined poison center calls about exposure to nicotine and tobacco products among children under age 6 from January 2012 through April 2015. The most worrisome findings involved e-cigarettes — battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Some feature colorful packaging and flavored nicotine that can attract young children.
But a sales associate at one local vape shop says these findings shouldn't reflect poorly on the industry.
"To me, this kind of feels like coming to the cleaning-products industry and saying, ‘Oh, you guys are completely messed up because so many kids drink bleach and die,’" said Calum McMillan, a sales associate at Cloud Vapor Lounge on Western Avenue. "I mean like: Don’t drink bleach!"
McMillan says the “vape juice” bottles on offer at Cloud all have childproof caps.
The researchers say the findings highlight a need for better parent awareness about the importance of keeping the devices out of sight and reach of young kids. They also recommend stricter regulation and applauded long-awaited restrictions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued last Thursday.
The study's results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.