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Manufacturers: Make e-cigarette liquid nicotine packaging safer

Reports of poisoning from ‘nicotine juice’ are on the rise

Published: January 30, 2015 05:00 PM
These colorful bottles of liquid nicotine are lot less flashy than others on the market.

As more Americans move from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, poison-control centers are reporting an increase in calls about people sickened by the liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes. Most of the poisoning reports involve kids.

The liquid nicotine used for vaping—users don’t smoke an e-cigarette, they “vape”—often comes in easy-to-open, brightly colored containers. And it might have a flavor that sounds more like candy than nicotine. We’ve seen such names as Peppermint Patty, Snickerdoodle, Bubble Gum, and Caramel Surprise among the thousands of flavors available.

It's not a stretch to see how these bottles would be appealing to children. What’s so alarming is that kids who come into contact with just a small amount of liquid nicotine can get terribly ill, suffering nausea and vomiting so bad they have to be rushed to the ER.

In fact, a single teaspoon of liquid nicotine is enough to kill a young child, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. That’s reportedly what happened last month in Fort Plain, New York, where police said a 1-year-old boy died after he swallowed liquid nicotine.

Check Consumer Reports' guide to e-cigarettes.

Yet despite the obvious dangers, there are no standards that require child-resistant packaging for these products. That’s why Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is lobbying Congress to put safeguards in place.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has introduced a bill called the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015. It would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue rules requiring safer, child-resistant packaging for any liquid nicotine sold to consumers.

Consumers Union, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a long list of other public-interest and medical groups endorse this bipartisan bill. This legislation is one example of an ongoing effort to address the safety of e-cigarettes. Only e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA is working on a rule that would give it greater authority over the products.

The rising number of calls to poison-control centers makes it clear that liquid nicotine packaging must be safer. Consumers Union will keep pushing lawmakers to take up Senator Nelson's legislation and approve it as quickly as possible to help keep our kids safe.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other articles in our Policy & Action series.

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