One Voice Illinois

E-Cigarettes—An Update

Illinois PTA covered the hazards of e-cigarettes to young children and the potential transition into using real tobacco by teens in a previous article. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, and the health risks are still unknown. Vapors from some e-cigarettes contain chemicals known to cause cancer in addition to nicotine, and there is no way for users to know how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals they are inhaling. E-cigarettes may be especially harmful if they lead to regular nicotine use or the use of other tobacco products. In high doses nicotine may be extremely toxic or even fatal, and poisonings can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of nicotine liquid on the skin. In Minnesota, child poisonings related to e-cigarettes increased sharply from 2011-2013. Symptoms have included nausea and vomiting.

New Laws in Illinois

While Illinois has passed House Bill 5689 (HB5689) and House Bill 5868 into law effective January 1, 2015 (Public Acts 98-1021 & 98-0983), the threats and potential for poisoning are still very much still there, particularly in the home.

Increased Use by Teens

The popularity of e-cigarettes with their variety of flavors and greater social acceptance is leading to an increasing number of teens giving them a try according to a recent Pediatrics journal article. The average age of first use of e-cigarettes is between 14 and 15. This increase in teen e-cigarette use is leading these teens to eventually try real tobacco. Despite the packaging being changed and the accessibility restricted, teens have the will and will find the way to obtain e-cigarettes, just as they have with real tobacco products over the years (and don’t forget sales over the internet).

Rapid Rise in Nicotine Poisonings

Education is essential, especially in the home, about the risk of poisoning being a significant concern with e-cigarettes. The colors and smells of nicotine liquid refills attract small children who end up exposed to a very toxic substance. Poisonings can occur through ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of nicotine liquid on the skin. In high doses, nicotine may be extremely toxic or even fatal. The CDC reports the number of calls involving e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half of the calls received involved children under the age of 5, and about 42 percent involved adults. Developing strategies to monitor and prevent future poisonings is critical given the rapid increase in cases, and diligence in the home is crucial.

Surgeon General Recommendations

The United States Surgeon General has suggested other ways to discourage use, include the following: