Our worst fears confirmed: 1-year-old dies from accidental liquid nicotine exposure

Safety

Advocates and lawmakers have been warning about the dangers of liquid nicotine to children in increasingly popular e-cigarettes, and our worst fears were confirmed last week when a 1-year-old child from New York died after ingesting the toxic product. Just one teaspoon of liquid nicotine – often sold in flavors attractive to kids like bubblegum and cotton candy – can be a deadly dose for children. Accidental ingestion and skin exposure more commonly mean symptoms like vomiting and seizures, and a trip to the emergency room.

Poison control centers reported this year a 200 percent jump in calls related to liquid nicotine poisoning, more than half in children under age 5. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine have become exponentially more popular.

Saving lives is simple. To prevent accidental poisoning, liquid nicotine, like cigarettes, should not be marketed in flavors that appeal to children. This would also reduce smoking rates among children and teens. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failed to address flavored e-cigarettes when it released the long-awaited deeming regulations in April. In response, Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the Stop Selling and Marketing to Our Kids E-Cigarettes Act (H.R. 5010), or the SMOKE Act. The bill would require the FDA to research the impact of flavored nicotine on smoking appeal/adoption for children. It did not make it to a vote in the 113th Congress.

Liquid nicotine should also only be sold in child-proof bottles. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2014 that would require just that. It also did not make it to a vote in the 113th Congress.

First Focus took action earlier this year to address sales of flavored liquid nicotine by contacting the brands of popular childhood cereals and candies that were being knocked-off to sell tobacco products. The result was companies like General Mills and Tootsie Roll Industries vowing to protect their trademarks. But brand policing does not stop the sale of generic flavors like mint. That needs to come from Congress and the Administration.

The New Year will welcome a new Congress. Sadly, accidental death due to nicotine poisoning is no longer just a possibility. It is up to the 114th Congress to protect our children and pass sensible legislation to keep flavored, poison liquid nicotine out of kids’ hands.