Follow my new "ANTZ Check" Series as I "fact check" the various ways the ANTZ (Anti Nicotine and Tobacco Zealots) deceive the public about smoke-free alternatives. Each ANTZ Check will be for one specific lie to keep it short and simple (and easy to link to if you are in a debate or just looking for facts.)
Because the refill liquids contain nicotine, taste good and can "look like liquid candy," they pose a significant poisoning risk to small children. This is yet another reason to fear and distrust e-cigarettes (and other smoke-free tobacco products.)
"...experts say if a child ingests just one drop, that's enough to be a potential toxin." - KSDK News Report
"If you look at the container that the liquid is for the electronic cigarettes, it's in a small, almost looks like an eyedropper container or even some of those candies, have you seen, that you drip into your mouth. And just 1 milliliter is enough to cause a problem in a young child." - Julie Weber, Missouri Poison Center Director.
"Young children could inadvertently swallow this e-liquid causing nicotine poisoning, which can lead to seizures and death." - Ricki Torsch, Macomb County Health Department
"the liquid nicotine solution packaged in a separate bottle could be consumed by a child, and lead to nicotine poisoning." - Karen Blumenfeld, Director Tobacco Control Policy and Legal Resource Center
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat - nicotine IS highly toxic! That much is true. A lethal dose of nicotine, for a child, can be as low as 10 mg. The "toxic shock" here is how they raise the alarm over the toxicity of nicotine and the potential of youth poisoning and count on the public not knowing the rarity of serious injury or death related to nicotine poisoning - even with the availability of far more tasty, FDA-approved gums and lozenges.
1) First, let's have some perspective on poisonings from the Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers for 2010 (most recent available):
Tobacco products total exposures: 8,335 (Children Under 12: 89%)
Deaths: 0 Major injury: 0 Moderate: 151 Minor: 1,773
Pharmaceutical nicotine product total exposures: 1,231 (Children under 12: 13%)
Deaths: 0 Major injury: 0 Moderate: 51 Minor: 234
E-cigarette/nicotine liquid total exposures: 29 (Children under 12: 21%)
Deaths: 0 Major injury: 0 Moderate: 1 Minor: 11
Household Cleaners total exposures: 180,493 (Children under 12: 65%)
Deaths: 21 Major injury: 194 Moderate: 4,492 Minor: 71,219
Food Poisoning total exposures: 24,514 (Children under 12: 22%)
Deaths: 9 Major injury: 34 Moderate: 1,394 Minor: 5,795
So, even with nearly 10,000 exposures to nicotine (ie. "potential poisonings") there were no deaths and not even any major averse health affects resulting from those exposures. The cases were all minor to moderate, most likely causing symptoms considered minor, such as pallor, cold sweat, nausea, salivation, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, disturbed hearing and vision, tremor, mental confusion, and weakness. These symptoms are also included as risks for FDA-approved pharmaceutical nicotine products.
Compare the nicotine poisonings shown above to the number of deaths and serious injuries which occurred with common household cleaners and even food. Nicotine should be treated no differently than other poison substances - put out of reach and children taught not to touch. Parents can even get those "yucky face" stickers they put on other chemicals as additional warning.
2) There is quite a hypocrisy here in singling out e-cigarette liquid for this poisoning risk. A bottle of Nicotrol spray contains 100 mg of nicotine. An 81 ct shaker of 4 mg Nicorette Mini Lozenges (which look remarkably like Tic-Tacs) contains 324 mg of nicotine and a 100 pack of 4 mg Nicorette gum contains 400 mg of nicotine. Unlike e-liquid, both Nicorette products are designed to taste good (mint, orange, cherry, fruit chill, cinnamon) when consumed by mouth in full-strength. Yet we don't see the ANTZ anxiously wringing their hands on television while warning consumers of the poisoning dangers of Nicorette. If they do issue warnings about the pharmaceutical products, it's usually done in a non-alarmist way to not discourage smokers from using the products.
3) Rarely is e-liquid sold in pre-mixed form higher than 36 mg and 24 mg is typically the most common "high nicotine" content sold. If a milliliter contains 24 mg (2.4%), then "just a drop" would be contain a non-hazardous amount, approximately 1-2 mg, which is approximately equivalent to eating one cigarette or 1/2 piece of Nicorette gum or 1/2 of a lozenge. And as many e-cigarette consumers can attest, getting just a tiny, extremely bitter drop of e-liquid on the tongue tends to cause an instinctive reaction to wipe it off. It tastes that bad. Nicotine also induces vomiting in larger amounts, which is one reason why they don't sell nicotine pills or syrup. The chances of a child drinking enough e-liquid and keeping it down long enough to be fatal is slim.
As we've seen previously, "Save the children" is a popular tactic for ANTZ. This could also be called a "Truth Twister" lie, because of the double standard of ignoring equally low risks of death or significant injury from pharmaceutical gums and lozenges, which actually taste better and look a lot more like candy. But the lie really depends mostly on scaring e-cigarette consumers with children with the exaggeration of the actual risk and occurrence of children dying from "nicotine poisoning." Of course, any potentially toxic substances, including products containing nicotine, should be carefully kept out of the reach of children. However, compared to other potential poison risks found in the home, nicotine poisoning is actually quite rare and more likely to decrease as millions of smokers move away from the largest source of nicotine poisoning - tobacco cigarettes - and use e-cigarettes instead. I rate this lie to be a "Toxic Shocker."
NOTE: This same lie is used against low-risk, smoke-free, alternative tobacco products such as snus, strips, sticks and lozenges.
ANTZ Check Lie icons:
A Toxic Shocker: Using negative comparisons and analogy to make something sound more dangerous than it really is. Often uses scary-sounding chemical names.
A B*** S*** Lie: Absolutely untrue, no evidence whatsoever to support the claim.
A Truth Twister: Presenting facts in such a way that something that could just as easily be seen as positive is presented only as negative or a careful use of specific words to change the focus of a discussion.
An Ego Booster: Relying on an authoritative or respected reputation to give the impression that an opinion or theory is a known fact. You must believe what they say solely because they are someone "important."
Read More ANTZ CHECKS