A child’s death in New York, suspected to relate to liquid nicotine, prompted Charlie’s House to offer some suggestions and request action on this potential poison.
At Charlie’s House, a Kansas City nonprofit organization, we want those who care for children to know some facts about keeping liquid nicotine and other potentially toxic chemicals safe and away from children.
Our mission is to prevent injuries to children in and around the home. After the accidental death of our son Charlie in 2007, due to a dresser — only 30 inches tall — tipping over onto him, we saw the need for the community to be educated about this type of preventable accident and others in their own homes.
To prevent injuries and accidents to children, Charlie’s House wants the public to know of growing concerns about liquid nicotine, which is used in electric cigarettes.
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Better known as e-cigarettes, they are battery-powered devices that are designed to mimic cigarettes by vaporizing a nicotine-laced liquid that is inhaled by the user. This is also known as “vaping.”
Sales of e-cigarettes have grown rapidly in the United States, doubling every year since 2008, and the industry is unregulated. The vapors come in various flavors and colors, and, to a child, they may appear as candy or a toy. Unfortunately, childproof tops are not always available.
At Charlie’s House, we support legislation that mandates child-proof containers for all bottles of liquid nicotine. Currently, there are no FDA restrictions on the amount of nicotine in each bottle, the contents of each bottle, warning labels, or age restrictions to purchase or consume liquid nicotine. We do acknowledge that there are some area stores that already have self-imposed such standards.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 60 milligrams of nicotine is enough to kill a 150-pound adult. Some e-cigarette “juice” formulas pack as much as 72 milligrams per refill, so the possibility of tragedy if a child consumes this product is quite obvious, yet not widely known. Adolescents are also experimenting with e-cigarette use at alarming numbers.
Some states are working on regulations on both the distribution and the use in public places. Kansas and Missouri have not passed any laws on liquid nicotine. California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010, and public health officials there recently declared e-cigarettes a health threat. The debate is ongoing about whether e-cigarettes have fewer toxins than regular cigarettes, but much more research is needed.
Denise Dowd, an emergency room physician at Children’s Mercy Hospital, shared some the startling facts about liquid nicotine at a recent Charlie’s House board meeting.
“Regulations are needed, but the most immediate need is for parents and caregivers to understand the possible risk these products pose to children,” Dowd said. “We must get the word out.”
We ask that you visit our website to learn more about e-cigarettes and other important safety information.
We support the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Positions which states:
▪ Sales of e-cigarettes to minors younger than 18 years old should be prohibited.
▪ Candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes, which encourage youth smoking initiation, should be banned.
▪ Federal, state and local governments should enact and enforce laws that mandate the provision of smoke-free environments, including e-cigarette vapor, in all public places and require employers to provide smoke-free and e-cigarette-, vapor-free work environments for their employees.
▪ To prevent poisoning, all e-liquid should be sold in child-proof packaging.
We’ve used Charlie’s House mission of keeping children safe to develop Charlie’s Checklist, a simple, no-frills lists highlighting home safety improvements caregivers can easily make themselves.
The checklists provides guidelines for projects that can be completed in every room of the house, including the garage and outdoor play area and yard. We’ve also created a three dimensional virtual safety demonstration house our website, www.charlieshouse.org, where guests can browse common household rooms for lessons on identifying potential accident spots within the home.
Brett Horn is the founder of Charlie’s House and the father of Charlie, Jack, Will and Brigit Horn. He lives in Kansas City with his children and wife, Jenny.
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