Nicotine poisonings among children jump as e-cigarette use rises

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There was a 35 percent jump in e-cigarette and e-juice poisonings among children in 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health announced Wednesday, the second straight year that numbers have risen.

In children, a small amount of nicotine can be fatal, while there is evidence that it can harm brain development during adolescence.

This has state health officials warning people of the risks associated when kids and teens are exposed to the drug, especially as e-cigarette use surges around the country.

“Many people think nicotine is addictive but not necessarily harmful on its own for teens and young adults, and that is not the case,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a news release. “We know there are clear health risks of nicotine exposure for youth.”

Nicotine poisonings

As new flavored tobacco products, like e-cigarettes, have become more and more popular – including among teenagers – the number of poisonings has grown, health officials note.

E-juice containers have varying amounts of nicotine – ranging from zero to 34 milligrams or higher – which can be enough to be fatal for children who may mistake the e-juice for candy or a drink, health officials say. A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50-60 milligrams, while for children it is much lower.

In 2014, about half the 62 cases of nicotine poisonings in children from birth to age 5 included incidents where unattended e-cigarette liquids were swallowed, inhaled, absorbed through the skin or came in contact with the eyes.

Symptoms of nicotine poisoning may include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or difficulty breathing.

Minnesota recently took a step to keep kids from accidentally ingesting e-liquids, Ehlinger said, noting a new law that took effect in January that requires e-cigarette vials to be sold in child-resistant packaging.

"But parents should still use caution and store the products out of the reach of children," Ehlinger added.

For more information on the risks associated with e-cigarettes and nicotine, click here.

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