Around 4 p.m., sickness emergency personnel were called to a home in the village of Fort Plain because a child was “unresponsive.” The 18-month old boy was rushed to the hospital. A little before 6 p.m., he was pronounced dead. The cause of death? The toddler did what toddlers do; he opened a bottle of liquid — one without a childproof cap — and swallowed the contents, which happened to be the highly toxic liquid nicotine made for electronic cigarettes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says this boy was the first child in the country to die from such an exposure. While that makes this incident a bit of an outlier, it’s also fits the skyrocketing number of incidents involving youngsters ingesting liquid nicotine, one that mirrors the rising popularity of e-cigarettes.
Consider this growth in the number of calls to local poison centers for exposure to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine. According to the American Association of Poison Centers:
- In 2011, there were 271 cases.
- In 2014, there were 3,831 cases; more than half involved children under age 6.
- In January, 387 cases, an early indication that 2015 could see yet another rise.
About three weeks after the death of the toddler in Fort Plain, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation requiring child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine products sold in the state and banned their sale to anyone under 18. While this new law will help prevent future tragedies in New York, we urgently need national regulations for e-cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.
The frustrating part is that the federal government has yet to follow up on action it began taking last April.