News / Health

E-Cigarettes Prompt Spike in Calls to US Poison Control Centers

FILE - A patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at the Henley Vaporium in New York
FILE - A patron exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at the Henley Vaporium in New York
Jessica Berman
Electronic or e-cigarettes, marketed as a safer alternative to actual tobacco-filled smokes, have prompted a dramatic increase in the number of calls to US poison control centers.  Most of the calls were from those worried about children who played with the mock cigarettes.  

Two hundred fiteens people called U.S. poison control hotlines about e-cigarettes in February, according to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. There was just one call to a center in September 2010, when the product was still new.

More than half of the emergency hotline calls were reports about children ages five and younger who were sickened by the battery-powered devices.   

Tim McAfee is director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. He says e-cigarettes, which are unregulated, contain liquid laced with nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes.  He says nicotine in liquid form is a well-known hazard.

“Nicotine historically has been used as a pesticide in the United States. And that’s where we have really had for many, many decades significant poisonings when people got exposed to nicotine that was in liquid solutions," said McAfee.

All e-cigarettes emit an aerosol that mimics cigarette smoke.  But McAfee says some e-cigarettes are just inhalable cartridges that the user refills with nicotine solution. Nicotine can be absorbed by the skin and McAfee says poisoning commonly occurs if someone gets a small amount of the liquid on themselves, in their eyes or if the solution is swallowed.  

Symptoms of nicotine toxicity include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, unsteadiness, tremor, headache, muscle twitches and seizures.  Excessive amounts of nicotine can disrupt heart rhythms, in rare cases leading to death.

Not surprisingly, the number of reported poisonings has risen with the popularity of e-cigarettes over the past several years.  But McAfee says he doesn’t want concerns about e-cigarettes to deflect attention from the much more serious health hazard posed by cigarettes, which kill a half million Americans every year.

“So, cigarettes are the winner in that contest.  And we don’t really know what’s going to happen with e-cigarettes," he said.

Because they don’t contain the hundreds of harmful chemicals found in burning tobacco, the U.S. Surgeon General has suggested that e-cigarettes may be a useful tool for adults trying to kick the cigarette habit.  

But McAfee worries that teenagers, who may regard electronic cigarettes as harmless, could become hooked on the nicotine and eventually move on to real cigarettes.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid