Demonizing electronic cigarettes and e-liquids is not the answer, New York Times

Read the new New York Times report, “Selling poison by the barrel: liquid nicotine for electronic cigarettes, “and you’ll learn shocking things about” e-liquid, “the oily substance used to create vapor in electronic cigarettes. (Or, as The Times describes it: a” dangerous new form of a powerful stimulant “that is “for sale by vial, gallon and even barrel.”) For example, did you know that e-liquids “are potent neurotoxins” or that a “teaspoon of e-liquid even very diluted can kill a small child ”?

Scary stuff, for sure. Unfortunately, the Times report sends the whole wrong message. The problem here is not inherent or unique to e-liquids or Electronic cigarettes. The problem is – as is so often the case with preventable accidents – ignorant and irresponsible people. More importantly, the problem is not as widespread as the Times report suggests.

Even though the number of e-liquid poisoning cases rises to 15 times the 2013 level, toothpaste remains the most common poison.

E-liquids generally contain three to four ingredients: propylene glycol and / or vegetable glycerin (both non-toxic and present in many foods); aroma (also non-toxic); and nicotine – even small amounts of which can kill children and adults alike.

It’s the liquid nicotine in e-liquids that, as The Times reports, led to more than 1,300 calls to poison control centers in 2013 – up from 447 in 2012 – and that number is expected to double this year, according to National Poison. Data. System (NPDS). This figure roughly matches the boom in the electronic cigarette industry, which is estimated to have generated around $ 1.7 billion in sales in 2013, double that of 2012, according to Bloomberg. Among the poisonings reported, some 365 people were sent to hospital, three times the number of hospitalizations in the previous year.

Children are especially susceptible to nicotine poisoning from e-liquids, the Times speculates, as e-liquids are packaged in “bright colors” and available in “scent flavors like cherry, chocolate and chewing. -gum “. In other words: the creators and distributors of e-liquids are doing everything possible to get children to drink poison.

e-liquid fillingThe increasing cases of e-liquid poisoning are absolutely a problem, simply because more poisonings are always worse than less, obviously. But what The Times doesn’t report – or bury – tells a different story: E-liquids make up only a small percentage of the substances that poison people each year.

According to the 2012 NPDS Annual Report (PDF) – the most recent publicly available report – 193,443 cases of poisoning involved household cleaners, 54,445 involved alcoholic beverages, 11,848 were caused by pens or other inks, and 20,306 were caused by toothpaste.

In other words, even though the number of e-liquid poisoning cases rises to 15 times the 2013 level, toothpaste remains the most common poison.

“OK,” you might say, “but toothpaste still isn’t that dangerous – liquid nicotine can kill people, even in small doses! Toothpaste can’t. And that’s true. E-liquid is extremely hazardous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. But, despite the scary title, not a single person died of accidental liquid nicotine poisoning. No, not even children. Only one person died knowingly from liquid nicotine poisoning – and it was “adult suicide,” reports The Times.

Everyone should keep their e-liquid and other e-cigarette supplies safe.

On top of that, e-liquid usually doesn’t contain enough nicotine to cause anyone’s death – a fact the Times pushes to the last paragraph, essentially contradicting its “even a teaspoon of e-liquid.” very diluted can kill a small child. ”You can find mixtures that do, but you’ll have to actively research it or do it yourself. (Pure liquid nicotine is available online, as well.) The products you buy from your local tobacco store or e-cigarette store (online or offline) are not dangerously high nicotine e-liquids. Oh, and no one other than the manufacturers buys this product by the barrel.

Now I think the Times report is just trying to let people know that e-liquid is dangerous. It’s awesome. Everyone – especially people with young children or pets – must keep their e-liquids and other e-cigarette supplies safe, just as you should keep cleaning products out of reach and guns locked in a safe. Don’t do it, and you create unnecessary risk. If you didn’t know that e-liquids are not drinkable, you know it now. To be responsible.

The reason I am frustrated with this report is that it is demonizing, one-sided and confusing. This potentially keeps people who might otherwise quit smoking away from an alternative that I know has helped people quit. And it could be more dangerous than what The New York Times aims to prevent.

(Photo © librakv and Gianluca Rasile Going through Shutterstock)

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Aron M. Newman