Young children in Minnesota are getting their hands on flavored juice used in e-cigarettes and poisoning themselves with nicotine at a troubling pace, state health officials said Wednesday.
The Minnesota Poison Control System reported 62 cases of e-cigarette and e-juice poisonings among children from birth to 5 years old last year — a 35 percent increase from 2013 — according to data released by the state Health Department.
This marks the second year of what the department is calling “significant increases in nicotine poisonings related to e-cigarette products,” which can contain fatal doses of nicotine for children.
“Children … may mistake the e-juice for candy or a drink,” a Health Department statement issued Wednesday said. Poisonings include calls involving unattended e-cigarette liquids being swallowed, inhaled, absorbed through the skin or coming in contact with the eyes, the department explained.
Beginning in January, a state law took effect that requires e-juice to be sold in child-resistant packaging, a mandate that Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger called “a big step to keep kids from accidentally ingesting these potentially fatal e-liquids. But parents should still use caution and store the products out of the reach of children.”
According to state health officials, nicotine can harm brain development during adolescence as well has potentially harm brain and lung development in fetuses.
Symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and/or difficulty breathing.
A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50 to 60 milligrams, and for children is a lesser amount. E-juice containers have varying amounts of nicotine, from 0 milligrams up to 34 milligrams or higher, the Health Department said.
Flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, are growing in popularity. For 2014, results from the Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey showed nearly 13 percent of high school students reported flavored tobacco products in the past 30 days.