Calls to poison control centers like this one have steadily increased since electronic cigarettes hit the U.S. market nearly a decade ago. But from January 2012 through April 2015, a new study shows calls skyrocketed nearly 15 hundred percent.
Dr. Gary Smith says "By the end of the study roughly every 3 hours there's a call to a poison control center for a child that's been exposed to an e-cigarette or liquid nicotine. that's about 7 children a day. That is a an epidemic by any definition.
Dr. Gary Smith was senior author of the study. Researchers found over a 40 month period more than 4 thousand children were exposed to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine. Children under the age of three were most vulnerable.
The liquid can actually cause poisoning by being absorbed through a child's skin, however, 90 percent of children were exposed by swallowing the liquid.
Dr. Smith says "It can cause severe medical outcomes among children, including coma seizures and respiratory arrest which is when a child stops breathing. In this study we've had one death due to exposure to liquid nicotine."
Dr. Smith says e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the food and drug administration and although the government prohibits flavors in cigarettes, liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes comes in candy and fruit flavors that attract children.
Dr. Smith says "Not only is it attractive but the top is not child resistant, it can be easily removed, that's why parents have to remember to put this up, away and out of sight of children. Preferably in a locked cabinet."
That's why Dr. Smith is urging the FDA to take immediate action to regulate the products, before even more children are poisoned.
In July, a new federal law will require e-cigarette liquids to be sold in bottles that are child resistant. Dr. Smith says while that is important, it is only a first step. He would like to see the government ban flavored liquid nicotine, what was done for cigarettes back in 2009.