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A hidden danger for people who use electronic cigarettes

December 6th, 2015

Experts say that many people who use electronic cigarettes are unaware that the e-liquid used in them can be harmful to children.

ARECENT study by researchers at Washington University in St Louis reveals that many parents who use electronic cigarettes (or e-cigs for short) are not aware of the dangers that they present for their children. The results of the study were published in the Academic Pediatrics journal. The use of e-cigs in the US has increased dramatically in the last few years, as have the number of emergency calls to poison control centres around the country.

Apparently, many adults who use these alternatives to traditional tobacco products are unaware of the dangers they present to children, as evidenced by the findings of a study conducted by researchers from the School of Medicine at the St Louis’ Washington University. To reach these conclusions, the researchers pored over the results of a self-administered survey that 658 parents took during office visits to 15 paediatric practices in the region of St Louis between June 24 and Nov 6, 2014.

electronic cigarettesOf the number, 95% were aware of e-cigs, and of these, 21.0% had tried e-cigs at least once, and 12.3% reported e-cig use by more than one person in their household. An additional 17.3% reported regular cigarette use. In two-thirds of the households where children were exposed to e-cigs, traditional tobacco products were also being used.

The results indicated that most respondents from e-cigusing homes did not think e-cigs were addictive (36.9% minimally or not addictive, 25.0% did not know). While 73.7% believed that eliquid was very dangerous for children if they ingested it, only 31.2% believed skin contact to be very dangerous. In 36.1% of e-cig-using homes, neither childproof caps nor locks were used to prevent children’s access to e-liquid, which was most commonly stored in a drawer or cupboard (34%), a purse or bag (22%) or on an open counter (13%), the study showed.

The liquid in e-cigs is a mixture of nicotine, glycerin and glycol ethers that, if ingested even in the quantity of a single teaspoon, could be lethal to a child. Smaller amounts are still able to cause nausea and vomiting that require emergency care while exposure to skin also can sicken children.

“These are largely avoidable risks, but because e-cigs are relatively new, many people – including paediatricians – aren’t aware of the dangers or the steps that should be taken to protect children from them,” said first author Dr Jane Garbutt, a professor of medicine and of paediatrics at the School of Medicine.

In dealing with this problem, medical prevention is key. And yet, according to the study, only 15.3% of the participants reported that their child’s paediatrician was aware of e-cig use in the home and that only 6% had discussed necessary security measures with the paediatricians.

“The easiest way to lower risk is to store e-liquid out of the reach of children,” said Garbutt, who added that “we strongly encourage paediatricians to ask parents about nicotine use, including e-cigs, and to discuss the risks of exposure.”

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