Prevention of Child Poisoning and Nicotine Addiction Must Be Priorities with E-Cigarette Regulation

February 20, 2015

Nicotine, the primary ingredient in e-cigarettes, is highly addictive and a dangerous poison even in very small quantities. Immediate federal government regulation is needed to protect children and adolescents from nicotine poisoning and addiction stemming from the increased usage, popularity and normalization of e-cigarettes. NAPNAP strives to protect all children from negative effects of nicotine and tobacco exposure through advocacy, educational efforts, treatment and research.

E-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS, are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine with or without flavorings and other chemicals in a vaporized form that users inhale. The devices may look like traditional cigarettes, pipes, pens or even USB memory drives. A water-based vapor is then exhaled.

There is insufficient data to determine the full health effects of e-cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes are not regulated like tobacco and there are no federal age restrictions for purchasing e-cigarette products; therefore, minors can purchase online and in states that do not regulate sales of the devices.

Since e-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace around 2008, comprehensive federal regulation has been lacking. Adolescent e-cigarette usage has gained national attention and study. In a 2013 release, the CDC noted “more than 1.78 million middle and high school students nationwide had tried e-cigarettes.” The 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan, indicates “in 2014, more teens use e-cigarettes than traditional, tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product—the first time a U.S. national study shows that teen use of e-cigarettes surpasses use of tobacco cigarettes.”

Child poisonings because of liquid nicotine jumped from 629 reported cases in 2012 to 1,414 in 2013, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The CDC reported that calls to poison control centers specifically related to e-cigarette exposure increased from one per month in 2010 to 215 per month in early 2014. Medical research has demonstrated that nicotine has negative effects on brain development from the prenatal period into adolescence.

NAPNAP calls for:

  • An immediate federal ban on marketing and sale of e-cigarettes to minors
  • All cartridges and e-liquids containing nicotine be sold in child-proof packaging
  • That e-cigarette usage follow currently established smoke-free mandates and regulations on federal, state and local levels.

In its position statement on Prevention of Tobacco Use and Effects in the Pediatric Population, NAPNAP firmly supports the prevention of exposure to and use of nicotine and tobacco in children of all ages.