HEALTH ALERT: E-cigarette contents can cause poisoning - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

HEALTH ALERT: E-cigarette contents can cause poisoning

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Close-up of contents and warning label Close-up of contents and warning label
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Many people are turning to electronic cigarettes to kick their tobacco habit, but the Minnesota Department of Health is issuing a warning that children and teens can be poisoned by the contents.

Officials say the number of e-cigarette related poisonings for people 20 years old and younger increased exponentially between 2012 and 2013, and they are now urging users to keep their spare vials out of sight and out of reach, preferably locked away.

In all the youth poisoning cases involving e-cigarette "juice," the liquids were either swallowed, inhaled or came in contact with eyes or skin.

"[Children are] little pleasure seekers. If it smells pretty and looks pretty, well, let's give it a taste," Kirk Hughes, of the Hennepin Regional Poison Center, explained. "Therein lies a problem."

Parents know there are few things children can't get their hands into -- or worse yet, into their mouths. In 2012, the Poison Center received only 5 reports related to e-cigarettes in young people. The very next year, 74 reports were fielded.

"And 40 of those patients were under the age of 6 years old," Hughes added.

Nicotine can be toxic to children, and is rapidly absorbed. Even in small doses, it can cause seizures and decreased respiration, but Hughes believes that a large dose of e-cigarette liquid could even be fatal.

"There could be anywhere from 4 mg up to who knows how many mg in these little vials," he said. "A lethal dose in adults is 50-60 mg."

Hughes also stresses that there currently is no packaging requirement for the vials, but staff members at the E-Cigarette Lounge in Richfield say just because there is no label requirement, that doesn't mean the warnings aren't present.

"Right here it says: 'Keep out of reach of children,'" Vape Assistant Nic Krogh demonstrated.

While e-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, Krogh said that ultimately, the issue of poisoning risks lies far from regulation or packaging.

"I think that is carelessness from the parents. You don't leave your bottle of alcohol out or your pack of cigarettes lit for the kids to smoke cigarettes," he said. "So, with the e-juice, you have to be as careful as you would with anything that you have to keep away from children."

Symptoms of poisoning from ingesting e-cigarette fluids can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and difficulty breathing. Anyone who is afraid they may have ingested a poisonous substance can call the Minnesota Poison Control System at 1-800-222-1222 to get immediate professional help at any time of day. More information can be found online here.

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