The Dangers of Liquid Nicotine
A new form of nicotine – liquid – is gaining popularity around the United States with potentially disastrous consequences. Incredibly potent, liquid nicotine poisonings have risen sharply in the past few years. A new report in the New York Times highlights the dangers of e-liquids.
E-liquids, as users of electronic cigarettes know it, is a liquid form of nicotine that generally ranges between 1.8% and 2.4% in concentration. The nicotine is colored, flavored and combined with an assortment of chemicals to produce e-liquid used for refilling electric cigarettes and vaporizers.
As e-cigarettes have shifted from disposable, one-time use gadgets to larger, reusable ones, the popularity of e-liquids has increased dramatically. Some estimates say that between 1 and 2 million liters of liquid nicotine will be sold in the U.S. this year alone. The product is widely available in stores and through online distributors.
Nicotine itself is a neurotoxin that when ingested or absorbed through the skin, even in small amounts, can produce vomiting, seizures and even death. Unlike the nicotine in cigarettes, liquid nicotine poses a much more serious poisoning risk due to its high concentration and ability to rapidly absorb into skin. Some toxicologists have warned that liquid nicotine poses a serious health risk to the American public.
Nicotine Poisoning On the Rise
Reports of accidental nicotine poisonings have risen steeply over the past few years. A large portion of the victims are young children who are drawn to the bright colors and tempting flavors. The New York Times highlighted the case of a two-year-old in Oklahoma who drank a bottle of her parent’s e-liquid and had to be rushed to the emergency room.
Even adults are at risk of poisoning. One woman in Kentucky had to be hospitalized due to cardiac problems when her e-cigarette broken in bed and the liquid nicotine was absorbed through her skin.
Not Enough Research
Advocates of e-cigarettes and e-liquid highlight it as a way for people to quit smoking. However, the technology is so new that no long-term studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping someone quit over more traditional methods such as nicotine gum or patches.
Another issue with liquid nicotine is a lack of regulation. Currently, there is no regulation over the ingredients in e-liquids. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it plans to eventually regulate e-cigarettes but has not indicated how it would do so.
By and large, even e-cigarette advocates are in favor of some regulation such as childproof bottles, warning labels and manufacturing guidelines. Some worry that manufacturers outside of the U.S., including China, may deliver product that is unsafe.
Liquid Nicotine Poisoning Statistics
- 1,351 cases of nicotine poisoning in 2013 – a 300% jump from the previous year.
- 365 of those cases were referred to hospitals for treatment
- 29 out of 74 cases of nicotine poisoning called into Minnesota Poison Controlin 2013 involved children aged two and under.
- The number of cases of nicotine poisoning are currently on pace to double this year.
- 1 death linked to nicotine poisoning has been reported since 2011. An adult is believed to have committed suicide by injecting liquid nicotine.