RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -
Electronic cigarettes, the battery powered devices that heat up liquid nicotine, turning it into a vapor, are touted as the healthy alternative to smoking. They're tobacco free and odorless and some say safer than smoking regular cigarettes.
But they're not telling you how dangerous the key ingredient is to children. The number of emergency room visits have increased because of the products - especially with kids.
Ren Gaulrapp's 4-year-old son was supposed to be taking a nap. Instead, he snuck into her room and grabbed some of the bright colored liquid nicotine, which caused him to throw up all day and suffer from nicotine withdrawal.
"We hear a little noise, come in and he has taken the lid off of all of them, and has this liquid everywhere. He`s got it all over him. He`s been eating it."
Nationwide, the American Association of Poison Control Centers found more than 1,400 exposures to either e-cigarette devices or liquid nicotine. This year, there have been more than 650 cases and more than half the cases involve young kids.
Pediatrician Dr. David Arkin says it doesn't take much to make kids sick and the liquid could even be deadly.
"Pure liquid nicotine is very poisonous," he says. "A couple of drops; It would take a couple of drops. It's very concentrated stuff. It can be absorbed through the skin, so it's a very dangerous thing to have in the house with little children."
Cathleen Grzesiek with the American Heart Association says it's scary to think about because doctors don't know what actually has been ingested.
"They smell good," she says. "They smell like candy, so they are ingesting them and it is a huge poison control concern. Part of the problem with these refills is that we don't know what's in them."
It wasn't until recently that the FDA announced plans to regulate e-cigs, requiring them to list ingredients. Currently there are no regulations.
Donovan Phillips, who owns several stores that sell the product, says they've been self-regulating for some time, making their caps child proof and putting warning labels, as well as the ingredients, on the bottles,
While some groups like the consumer advocates for smoke-free alternatives are coming out against f-d-a regulation, Phillips says he has no problem with the increased oversight. Though he thinks most of the responsibility falls on parents to protect their kids.
"This is a product I shouldn't have near my children," he says. "Easy access, just like Drano, or bleach or any household chemical."
He says he doesn't believe it's a dangerous product if it's used the right way.
"As long as people use a product safely and the way that it's meant to be used, you know nicotine use is a personal choice."
While there are no federal regulations yet, Virginia has already taken steps to regulate the products by passing a bill that takes effect this year, prohibiting the sales of e-cigs to minors.
For more information about e-cigs and what to do if your child is exposed to liquid nicotine, visit aapcc.org/alerts.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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