E-liquid child poisoning on the rise

The Victorian Government is the latest stakeholder to express concern about vaping, saying e-liquids are becoming increasingly more dangerous

The Andrews Labor Government has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the risks associated with e-liquids after information it describes as “alarming” revealed the product is becoming “more deadly”.

Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos released data from the Victorian Poisons Information Centre that shows concentrations of nicotine are getting stronger and the number of child poisonings from e-liquids are increasing.

The standard nicotine percentage in pre-packaged liquids is between 0.06% to 0.38%. 

New data reveals there have been seven calls over the past two years where the liquid had a nicotine percentage 10% or above – with more concentrated solutions being available online.

Reports of child poisoning due to liquid from e-cigarettes are also on the rise. The Victorian Poisons Information Centre has received 38 calls this year, including 17 cases involving kids – up from 12 calls involving children in 2018.

The State Government’s new video campaign, which highlights the importance of being vigilant when using and storing e-cigarettes around children, comes in response to a recommendation from the Victorian Coroner following the death of an 18-month old baby in 2018.

In this case, the child – identified as “Baby J” – was living with his parents, both of whom were attempting to quit smoking, using e-cigarettes as a quitting aid.

At the time of the inquest the coroner, Phillip Byrne, noted that the nicotine liquid they were vaping was not approved for use in Australia.

The TGA had made a “final decision” in 2017 to maintain the ban on such liquids for vaping. Currently in Victoria, it is illegal to sell any e-cigarette device or any e-liquid to a minor. In addition, the retail sale of liquid nicotine is banned in Victoria.

Baby J’s mother had reacted quickly when she saw her child take an opened bottle of nicotine liquid – which she had been putting into bottles for vaping – and called 000, but after hospitalisation Baby J was shown to have a “profound irreversible” brain injury and life support was withdrawn.

Now, the Victorian Government has noted that the liquid used in e-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine. Liquid nicotine is poisonous and can cause serious illness or even death if ingested, with children and pets being particularly vulnerable, it points out.

E-liquid products for use in e-cigarettes come in flavours that are attractive to children but are not in childproof packaging. Due to either their size or strength, some refill bottles contain a lethal dose for a young child.

The Labor State Government says that it is pushing for a nationally consistent approach to the packaging and labelling of e-liquids and has implemented laws that regulate e-cigarettes in the same was as they regulate tobacco products.

 “Sadly, children have become severely unwell or died after swallowing e-cigarette liquid. We are acting to keep our kids safe,” said State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.

“I urge vapers to be vigilant – make sure your e-liquids are locked up and out of reach and out of sight of children.

“There’s no doubt about it – vaping is dangerous. It harms your health and can harm the ones you love.”

Recently, more stakeholders have expressed concern about vaping and its effects; earlier this year, Coral Gartner and Wayne Hall from the University of Queensland wrote a piece in The Conversation which discussed EVALI – a collection of symptoms recently recognised by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury”.

Following at least six deaths in the US attributable to vaping, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and all State and Territory Chief Health Officers urged a precautionary approach to the marketing and use of e-cigarettes, and recommended that e-cigarette users with unexplained respiratory symptoms seek medical advice.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Thompson

    There was too much wrong in this article to fit in a single comment, so I put it in a Tweet thread, unrolled here..

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