September 18, 2015
4 min read

Many parents ignorant of e-cigarette poisoning risks to children

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While e-cigarette use was found in 12.3% of households, often alongside regular cigarettes, many parents who used e-cigarettes were unaware of the potential health risks for children, such as nicotine poisoning, according to a recent survey.

“E-cigarettes generate little side-stream emissions, but the vapor exhaled by an e-cig user may contain nicotine, particles, heavy metals, and other constituents,” researcher Jane M. Garbutt, MB, ChB, from the department of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “However, the health implications of bystander exposure to exhaled e-vapor remain unclear, particularly regarding children. More worrisome for children’s safety is the risk of acute nicotine toxicity through unintentional exposure to concentrated nicotine in e-liquid.”

To obtain information regarding parental knowledge of cigarette and their own personal use, Garbutt and colleagues distributed a questionnaire to 15 pediatric clinics in the St. Louis area. In addition to household use of cigarettes or e-cigarettes, parents/guardians (n = 658) were surveyed regarding their knowledge of the dangers of e-cigarette exposure for children through inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion.

Surveyed participants were asked if and where e-cigarettes were used in the home, how often they were used and what kinds of e-cigarette products were used. Participants also were surveyed regarding their pediatricians’ awareness of home use of e-cigarettes and the parent’s desire to receive information about e-cigarette safety from the pediatrician.

Forty-one percent of surveyed participants estimated that children viewed their daily e-cigarette use, with the most commonly used e-cigarette devices consisting of nicotine-containing (64.9%) and refillable (66.2%) devices; 57.1% of participants reported sweet-flavored e-liquids were occasionally used.

Furthermore, 36% of respondents said they neither locked up e-liquid bottles nor used childproof caps, while 19.7% used childproof caps, and 8.2% locked up e-liquid. Participants reported that e-liquid was most commonly stored in a drawer or cupboard (33.8%), a purse or bag (22.1%) and on an open counter or shelf (13%).

“Three percent of the people in our study said a child of theirs had tried to drink the e-liquid,” Garbutt said in a press release. “The easiest way to lower risk is to store e-liquid out of the reach of children. Open counters and shelves, unlocked drawers, and purses and bags aren’t safe storage places.”

The researchers said 47.2% of participants reported their pediatrician was unaware of e-cigarette use in the home, 5.6% had discussed e-cigarette use and safe storage of e-liquid with their pediatrician, yet 27.8% of participants said they would like to open this discussion. – by Bob Stott

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.