Poisoning by ingesting nicotine-containing electronic cigarette liquids is becoming more common in the UK with an increasing number of people taking up to vaping. Among the victims are very small children. Figures put out by the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) claim that there were 139 instances during the current year where health professionals sought advice for treating such cases as compared to 29 cases in the previous year and only 36 cases in the five preceding years.
While over half of the cases involved people above 18 years, a third involved children below the age of five years.
John Thompson, director of NPIS stated that the poisoning was accidental in most cases with patients complaining of symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and abdominal pain which normally did not last for long. However, a tenth of the young children below five years old required hospitalisation.
According to Thompson, people have been increasingly using electronic cigarettes. He urges all electronic cigarette users to ensure that the smoking liquids are stored in safe places away from the reach of children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US has also issued health warnings following a steep increase in the calls reporting cases of poisoning related to electronic cigarettes. As compared to a single call in September 2010, poison centres received 215 calls in the month of February of the current year.
Sweden has also confirmed a jump in the cases of e-cigarette poisoning.
Many countries in the EU are planning to impose stricter controls over e-cigarettes. Some e-cigarette companies are looking to licence their products as medicines but this would require them to produce evidence to support their claim that e-cigarettes aid smokers in their efforts to quit.
The government in Wales is actively considering a ban on vaping in public places. The proposed ban on sales of the electronic device to people under the age of 18 in England and Wales may soon become reality.
Catherine Devlin, who is with Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (Ecita), UK, which has 26 companies as its members, states that there are over 2 million vapers in UK. According to her, the present regulation of products and chemicals in the EU is robust and should give consumers sufficient confidence. These regulations mandate that the manufacturers must warn consumers about the toxic effects of the e-liquids if swallowed or if it comes in contact with the skin as well as warns them to store it away from children.
However, she recognises that authorities do not always ensure that the regulations are implemented, allowing some manufacturers to take advantage of consumers. She states that illegal operators who flout labelling and childproof packaging norms should be prosecuted.
Devlin feels that electronic cigarettes must be easily accessible but at the same time there is need to ensure that they are subjected to strict tests, are safe and are marketed appropriately.
Ecita expects the new rules to force manufacturers to withdraw most of the currently sold electronic cigarettes from the market while making the new products not as attractive and more difficult to use. The new regulations will be introduced in phases from 2016.
The new rules will require manufacturers to reveal more information on the nicotine content of the product, its addictiveness and toxicity and will introduce fresh controls on refills. There will also be new powers to authorities of the EU and its member states to take action on issues concerning the safety of the product as well as for monitoring this expanding niche market.
The passage of new legislation banning sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone less than 18 years of age was confirmed by the Department of Health. It stated that the rules are in line with its objective of keeping nicotine products away from the youth. The Department also stated that they are working to ensure proper implementation of the regulations.